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French climatologist: Shift to renewable energy would make economic growth impossible – Solar & wind ‘will not allow us to maintain today’s modern industrial world’

By Paul Homewood

Even climatologists are beginning to realise that the emperor has no clothes!

Economic growth as we know it is impossible if governments shift to 100 per cent renewable energy, a renowned French climatologist has said.

Jean-Marc Jancovici, the author of World Without End, the graphic novel on climate change which has sold nearly a million copies in France, said that wind, solar and hydroelectric power offer no miracle solution and “will not allow us to maintain today’s modern industrial world”.

He said: “Globalisation is basically ships, trucks, planes and computers, and all this relies on fossil fuels. The idea that we can keep all that in a world with only renewable energies is a bold assumption and I don’t believe that such a shift is compatible with maintaining growth in physical economic output.

“It’s also an unproven assumption to claim that renewable energy will remain cheap in a world with only renewable energy.”

Controversially for many greens, Mr Jancovici argues that nuclear power is an effective way to soften the blow with an “emergency parachute” to reduce the risk of “social collapse”.

Nuclear power has seen a widespread return to favour after years in the doldrums since the Fukushima disaster. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, recently announced his intention to build another six next-generation EPR reactors to add to France’s vast fleet of 58.

At Cop28, a group of 22 countries pledged to triple nuclear capacity by 2050.

Farmer Marc Chabanol walks across his fields near Perpignan in the Pyrenees-Orientales region. France’s southernmost department has been alarmingly dry for almost two years in a row Credit: ED JONES/AFP

Mr Jancovici said this was doable but would “not itself save the industrial world”.

Tripling capacity means “going from 2 per cent of the final energy that we use to 6 per cent globally,” he said, adding: “It’s a good idea but will not spare us from having to make tremendous efforts on decreasing energy use.”

Given all that, he said he had sympathy for politicians such as Mr Macron and Rishi Sunak who continue to plug “green growth”.

He said: “They can’t really promise anything else because they have no alternative. France, like the UK, has no plan B for a world in structural recession. How do you manage the budget? How do you manage pensions?”

“As we are not equipped to face that situation, it’s pretty logical and human to say that it won’t happen.”

The world will have to “get rid of India starting next year” if the planet is to stick to global warming targets, he said.

Mr Jancovici, 61, a charismatic climatologist who pioneered the carbon footprint concept in France and sits on a climate commission advising the government, has a habit of dropping bombshells.

In fact, Jancovici is dangerously understating the real position.

This is not just about “economic growth”. Take away fossil fuels, and the inevitable result will be a collapse and dislocation of the world’s economy, mass starvation and poverty.