Mots clés : #greentechnology #globalwarming #decarbonation #biomass #co2captation #ademe #scenario
Our way of life is the result of technological advancements spurred by the first industrial revolution, which enabled us to overcome millennial challenges and show up where we are today. Science has allowed us to perform miracles that were previously reserved for spiritual entities: Agricultural yields are excellent, oil has replaced elbow grease, and medicine allows us to increase our life expectancy. However, after decades of uninterrupted growth, and despite warnings, we are witnessing unprecedented changes that we will have to deal with sooner or later. Overconsumption, pollution in all forms, decreased agricultural yields due to soil depletion, and mass extinction are all factors. In a century, humans left an indelible mark on our planet. So, what should we do in a world where technological innovation solves all of our problems? We choose the same approach because we are afraid of losing what we have: a life of abundance, comfort, and security. In this case, let us imagine a future in which technology solves our problems, based on two ADEME scenarios: green technologies and the reparative bet. This organization has, in fact, listed four possible scenarios for reducing human impact on climate change:
- Frugal generation (scenario 1) : Respect for nature, use of robust and easily repairable technologies (no programmed obsolescence), limitation of constructions and renovation of old ones, modification of eating habits and reasoned mobilization of forest resources, reduction of mobility and favoring of soft transport, reduction of industrialization and favoring of short circuits.
- Territorial cooperation (scenario 2) : Acceleration of the food transition, development of advanced biofuels, energy renovation of buildings, densification of housing (building sharing), local mobility, industrial transport focused on rail and waterways, recycling and re-industrialization in targeted sectors.
- Green Technologies (scenario 3) : Maximum use of biomass for multiple purposes, electrification of vehicles, renovation and decarbonization of housing, decarbonization of industry through the use of hydrogen and electrification of processes, capture of CO2 emitted by biomass.
- Restorative betting (scenario 4) : Highly competitive food industry, improvement of equipment efficiency and creation of efficient technologies, exploitation of natural resources and recycling pushed to its maximum thanks to advanced technologies.
Each scenario changes our habits in order to achieve carbon neutrality and build a better future. While scenarios 3 and 4 are more about changing consumer behavior and new technologies, scenario 4 is a risky bet on CO2 capture and storage technologies, BECCS and DACCS, which are still in the early stages of development. But all four scenarios have one thing in common: we need to act quickly so that the changes, which will take a long time to be accepted and implemented by the greatest number of people, can be applied and have an impact before it is too late.
What would the future look like if we develop green technologies (scenario 3) ?
Following the third scenario of the Ademe report, it is about developing technologies that enable us to respond to environmental challenges rather than changing our behavior to be sober. It’s not so much about changing « what » we do as it is about changing « how » we do it. Companies, for instance, produce slightly less than they do today in terms of output, but they are still significantly more decarbonised. The means of transport are a bit smaller but the vehicles are lighter and electric: this is how we look at how to get closer to carbon neutrality in this scenario. Nature is seen as a set of resources to be developed, used and optimized for the benefit of humans, in a relationship of mutual growth between natural ecosystems and intense human activity in all fields of the economy. Technologies are at the service of the environment, as a means of knowledge, but also of opportunities because they bring flexibility and also new capacities of adaptation.
Turning to a decarbonized and sustainable production, our dependence on fossil fuels will decrease. Our objective is to capture CO2 and store it in the soil while developing biomass, mainly forestry, to produce energy. We are developing the production of renewable fuels from biomass, to produce 98 TWh, despite the 76% drop in demand for liquid fuels due to electrification. This is still very costly because the demand for decarbonized energy is driving up its price. We can also note that with a strong intensification of digital technology, data centers will consume 10 times more than in 2020. Concerning mobility, the State regulates infrastructures and encourages massive telecommuting and carpooling. Thus, even if an increase of 13% of additional kilometers per person are to be expected, 30% are trips on foot or by bike.
Concerning food and agriculture, the choices are to reduce our meat consumption by 30%, and at the same time develop the consumption of organic and local products in order to reach 30%. We increase the surface of energy crops and we intensify agriculture with an important use of synthetic inputs to compensate. In order to preserve the biodiversity, we set up a natural capital
In a few statistics:
- 30% reduction in meat consumption
- 86% reduction of greenhouse gas emission in the industry
- 60% of the materials used are from recycling
Can we repair our mistakes and preserve our lifestyle ? (scenario 4)
This last scenario is the one in which our way of life is most preserved by relying on our ability to repair our damage. It is also the one that our societies naturally gravitate toward because it refers to an ideal of growth and complete control of Man over his environment. Aid to struggling countries is accelerating globalization.
This fourth scenario is based on two dynamics:
- A global middle class that contributes to robust growth in production and consumption
- A digital revolution that makes life easier for citizens and businesses. (Digital technology is very energy-intensive)
Strategic stocks are established in this scenario to deal with climatic hazards that will become more frequent and, undoubtedly, more powerful. Man is able to technically master nature and propose a targeted solution to each ecological challenge.
In the face of climatic hazards, an insurance market is established to protect each individual from the consequences. Everyone will be required to subscribe to and contribute to mandatory insurance policies that will cover these climatic risks.
Agriculture and the food industry have become increasingly specialized. Meat consumption has decreased by 10% and is now supplemented by alternative proteins (insects or synthetic). Agriculture is evolving into a sector that employs all available technologies to maximize output while minimizing environmental impact. This transition, however, will result in a 65 percent increase in irrigation water.
In terms of housing, new constructions are maintained and only half of the existing ones will be renovated to a very high level of insulation (low-energy buildings). The performance of equipment is improved to combine technological innovation and energy efficiency.
Because of an increase in long-distance travel, the number of kilometers traveled by individuals increased by 39%. (mainly air travel). The individual car retains its central position, but despite limited access to available resources, the use of technological progress (electrification, biogas, biofuels, renewable energies) is increasing.
In a world where consumption outpaces production, markets rely heavily on imports to satisfy the population by providing an increasing number of options. Domestic production focusing on decarbonization, CO2 capture, and geological storage supplements these imports. Natural resources and significant recycling, at the cutting edge of technology, are used to meet resource needs by proposing ever-increasing production. As a result of these new technologies, industry, which is one of the most polluting sectors, will reduce its energy consumption by 19%.
In Scenario 4, we must rely on certain foreign countries’ specialization in the production of decarbonized or renewable gas. This action will result in a 51% increase in overall gas decarbonization.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and technological sinks are critical in this scenario because they will lead to industry decarbonization. This strategy has the effect of drastically altering the forestry landscape by removing hardwoods and replacing them with faster-growing softwoods.
In a few statistics:
- 10% reduction in meat consumption
- 19% reduction in energy consumption in industry
- 45% of the materials used are from recycling
What are the different environmental and lifestyle outcomes between scenarios 3 and 4?
Let’s start with the societal point of view, there is no real difference between the 2 scenarios: the similarities and differences between the two ADEME scenarios are shown in Figure 2. One tends only towards a little sobriety while the other saves a mass consumption. Although the services provided by nature are optimized, it is above all a resource to be exploited.
For food, scenario 3 is more moderate: it foresees a decrease in meat consumption of 30% and also a share of organic food of 30%. Scenario 4 envisages a decrease of only 10%, supplemented by synthetic or vegetable proteins.
Concerning housing, a maintenance of new constructions is foreseen in the « repairing bet », for scenario 3, a deconstruction-reconstruction on a large scale is envisaged. As for renovation, while in scenario 4, half of the housing is renovated to a high level, scenario 3 goes further by renovating all the housing but not in a very efficient way.
Finally, for the mobility of the populations, the 3rd scenario opts for a regulation by the State as regards infrastructures, massive telecommuting or carpooling. 13% more km are covered per person on average but 30% of these trips are made on foot or by bicycle. The last scenario is looking for speed, it foresees an increase of 28% of km per person for 20% of the trips made on foot or by bike.
Concerning the environment, the comparison is made with the year 2015, during which we consumed 1772 TWh. Each sector (Industry, Transport, Residential, Tertiary and Agriculture) are each between 200 TWh for the tertiary and 500 TWh for agriculture. In 2050, scenario 3 « consumes » 1062 TWh, with a slightly lower share for agriculture than for the other sectors. The scenario is rather balanced with almost 4 equal shares for a total of 1287 TWh.
Renewable energies represent a very large share in all scenarios: 70% for scenario 4, between 81 and 87% for scenario 3. Although these rates are lower than in the other two scenarios, this represents a much larger amount of energy (900 TWh).
What risks is society willing to take to maintain its current way of life?
In a society where technology guarantees quick access to desired products and services at a lower cost, how and which classes of individuals would be willing to sacrifice some of their pleasures and needs?
Today’s population is increasingly encouraged to use what is necessary and not to overconsume, but this does not necessarily mean that they can live without some of the everyday things that are considered vital by their users.
Let’s give an example from scenario 3 and 4: reducing meat consumption during meals by 10 to 30% is for some a superhuman effort and for others a mere formality. It may also depend on the income of people belonging to these social classes. Indeed, some can afford to buy biologic products and consume synthetic or vegetable proteins (more expensive) to supplement their daily protein intake but some cannot.
The implication and the guilt for the survival of future generations is specific to each person, that is why we think that the best solution would be to impose a policy based on the last two scenarios, in small doses and thanks to social aid.
Should the future be a mix of all these scenarios?
Each scenario has its own voice and strategy. But can we imagine that from these scenarios we can create new ones?
We can imagine that combining these four scenarios will allow us to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We could combine ideas from all of them to create a new one that is more suited to French society. We believe that in order to achieve carbon neutrality, we will need a committed government and a motivated population. As a result, we could envision a scenario in which a strong policy would be directed and supported without being perceived as restrictive by the French. One solution that pops up is to put several proposals to a vote in a referendum. This would allow the government to determine whether or not the French are willing to make a sacrifice. The government would then commit to going in the direction chosen by the French. Obviously, this will have to be supplemented by public education about the climate emergency. His ideas will enable us to reach a commitment that is shared by all, making us far more effective.
Can we really imagine such scenarios in today’s globalized world?
Of course, we must keep in mind that the objectives outlined in the various ADEME scenarios are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve if each and every country does not play its part. The geopolitical stakes pose a significant challenge; specifically, how can the commercial exchanges that result from globalization be reduced? We can anticipate that future technologies will enable trade to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Scenario 3 envisions trade concentration in Europe in order to limit long transports and, as a result, create a continental economic model. In terms of the rest of the world, the poorest countries do not pollute the most because of their citizens’ living standards. Habits must be drastically altered, particularly in developed countries, but this will be difficult. Is the world willing to give up the convenience of globalization for the sake of environmental health?
Scenarios 3 & 4 are very ambitious and above all extremely risky. The anticipated changes are in all cases very long to put in place, whether it is a question of changing the behavior of companies in their production methods or the attitude and habits of consumers.
This bet is nevertheless necessary when the objective is to reach carbon neutrality.