A season of all records, the summer of 2022 was marked by several heat waves, forest fires and a severe drought. Extreme climatic events which seem to have led to an awareness on the part of the French. But will this be followed by effects?
Heat waves, fires, drought, violent storms… The summer of 2022 broke all records. With temperatures 2.3 degrees higher than normal for the season, it is the second hottest recorded in mainland France after that of 2003, noted Météo France, Tuesday August 30, warning that these summers could become the norm in the next decades.
The same day, on France Interthe Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, pointed to “major meteorological hazards”, droughts and mega-fires, as well as the “health consequences” they cause.
“The experts are very clear on the subject, (…) the summer of 2022 is probably the coolest you have experienced or will experience in the next twenty years,” she said.
In recent days, several polls have revealed that the French are more likely to make the link between the extreme events of this summer and the global warmingthat they are afraid of being personally victimized and that they are ready to adapt their behaviour.
According a YouGov poll for The HuffPost, nearly 9 out of 10 French people make the link between extreme events and global warming, and are ready to adapt their behavior. On his side, for France Bluethe Odoxa Institute reveals that more than 7 out of 10 French people (71%) fear being personally victims of climatic events.
In 2003 already, a click… without effects
“The only thing that really scares me in this life, (…) is clearly global warming. To tell me that if it happens I will never have a mini-me because there will be no not a livable life here…”, one can read on Twitter.
“I think my eco-anxiety has never been higher than this summer of 2022,” wrote another user. “And it’s probably the coolest and least dry summer of the rest of my life. Everything is fine.”
I think my eco-anxiety has never been higher than this summer of 2022. And it’s arguably the coolest and least dry summer of the rest of my life. Everything is fine.
— Snackologist (@Grignotologist) August 5, 2022
OK. Here is a satellite photo of the 2003 heat wave and one from August 2022.
If you’re not afraid, you’re not paying attention to the facts. pic.twitter.com/5g8IGIFV7s
— Raph (@Razrael_) August 14, 2022
In mid-August, a twittos living in Gironde counts two months without rain in his department. “It must be the 20e day at least in those two months when temperatures exceed 35°C. We got used to the smell of burnt wood and the thick smoke in the atmosphere for a few weeks. My eco-anxiety has never been so high.”
During this summer season, global warming has become a reality for the French, who are more and more numerous to express their incipient eco-anxiety.
The latter were indeed not spared. This summer, France experienced three heat waves, including a particularly early one, at the beginning of June; the drought was aggravated by the heat and the lack of rain; violent storms and forest fires have also ravaged several territories in France.
If Jean Jouzel, climatologist and former vice-president of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change), observes citizens’ awareness, it is more through requests from the media and requests for conferences made by companies and associations. The climatologist, author of more than 250 scientific publications, says he has never received so many requests – up to 10 per week. “It was not the case before,” he continues.
However, he remains cautious. “After the summer of 2003, we also said that there was an awareness. The problem is not awareness but taking action,” says Jean Jouzel. It was enough that this summer was followed by a normal summer, and everything went back to the way it was before,” he continues, fearing that the effect of the summer of 2022 will also be ephemeral. “It will be enough that we have one or two normal summers and inaction will return.”
The French, climate skeptics?
Should we see this as a sign that the French deny the reality of global warming?
Shared recently by several media, an OECD study (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), conducted in 20 countries and published in July, caused confusion by revealing that 57% of French people believe that “climate change exists and is due to human beings”. According to these figures, 43% of French people would therefore deny this information, which is nevertheless the subject of a scientific consensus.
But do we really have to understand that nearly one in two French people are climatosceptic? No, answers the main author of the studyAntoine Dechezleprêtre, specifying that it is more interested in the acceptance of public policies to fight against climate change by the populations.
Thus, these 43% of French people are not convinced that man has nothing to do with global warming, but are simply misinformed.
Jean Jouzel, however, maintains that there is still some French skepticism about the human cause of global warming.
In April 2021, an Opinion Way poll also revealed that “one in five French people (21%) did not believe in global warming”.
“There are those who accept the reality of global warming but who do not accept the reality of a link between this global warming and human activities; and there are also those who accept it but think that technology will solve everything , which is extremely dangerous”, develops the climatologist, specifying all the same that the climatosceptics express themselves in a less visible way than ten years ago.
Still, the French today seem to be more inclined to worry about this phenomenon. This is what an Ipsos poll published on August 25 tells us, according to which global warming has become the second concern of the French (32%), behind inflation (33%). “Its highest level ever measured”, immediately specified the director of the polling institute, Mathieu Gallard, on Twitter.
— mathieu gallard (@mathieugallard) August 25, 2022
“Not ‘adapt’, but ‘change’ his behavior”
During the presentation of the summer 2022 report by Météo France, Samuel Morin, director of the National Center for Meteorological Research of the National Meteorological Service said it: the summer of 2022 is “a foreshadowing” of the future.
Around 2050, “it is expected that about half of the summers will be of a comparable or even higher temperature level”. And this, even if the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming are contained.
Also, if the French are more and more likely to say they are ready to “adapt their behavior”, Jean Jouzel believes that this will not be enough. “You no longer just have to adapt your behavior, but change your behavior, and that’s what the French don’t understand,” he told France 24.
Pointing to “energy sobriety”, a hazy expression from which, in his view, ultimately does not result in real concrete measures, the climatologist finds it “regrettable” that this subject only comes on the table at the time of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “It’s quite unfortunate that we’re only talking about it now when we’ve always known it: the need to place sobriety at the heart of a climate policy was written in the latest IPCC reports and in the recommendations of the 150 citizens“, he recalls. “It’s not things on the fringe that you have to do, not just small gestures.”
This refers in particular to the “fuel discount”, increased on 1er september. A coherent measure from an economic point of view, but which should have been accompanied by “real sobriety measures in terms of mobility”, he says, referring for example to the proposal of the Citizen’s convention for the climate to limit the speed to 110 km/h on the motorway. “This measure should have been accompanied by real measures of sobriety, and this for a long time.”
In France and its European neighbors (United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, etc.), for lack of sufficiently motivated leaders capable of setting an example, of proactive and assumed policies on the subject, salvation could come from citizens, eager to act on their own. But the result seems anything but guaranteed.
If out of all the (mostly rich) countries targeted by the OECD survey, 60 to 90% of those questioned clearly understand that climate change is caused by human activity, few seem to be ready to sacrifice their comfort.
Respondents are generally unwilling to significantly reduce their beef or meat consumption. “And few of them are willing to drastically limit their driving, heating or cooling their homes.”