Jean Jouzel, emeritus scientist and activist The paleo-climatologist Jean Jouzel was present in the Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe Auditorium on EDHEC’s Lille campus on Tuesday 1st of February to answer…

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18 Feb 2022

Jean Jouzel, emeritus scientist and activist

The paleo-climatologist Jean Jouzel was present in the Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe Auditorium on EDHEC’s Lille campus on Tuesday 1st of February to answer climate-related questions from members of the Agora student association and the audience.

A renowned scientist, Jean Jouzel graduated from the Higher School of Industrial Chemistry in Lyon (ESCIL) and earned a doctorate in physical sciences before joining the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre in 1968. In 2002, he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body tasked with assessing the latest knowledge related to climate change.  

Jean Jouzel has always been determined to make scientific work intelligible to the greatest number, a mission he succeeded with during this conference open to all on EDHEC’s Lille campus.

Jean Jouzel has also contributed to the subject of climate change as an activist, as witnessed notably by his book ‘Le Climat : jeu dangereux : dernières nouvelles de la planète’ published in 2007 or his participation in the collection of essays ‘Les Armes de la transition – l’intelligence collective au service de l’écologie’  in 2021.

The reality of global warming

The conference began with a particularly poetic and hard-hitting, but humorous, sketch presented by Charles Ruquet, a Master student and Agora member, who spoke in the first person in the role of planet Earth. 

Carla Michel and Manoelle Grenier, the students in charge of the debate, then went straight to the heart of the matter by asking Jean Jouzel if there was sufficient awareness of the reality of global warming. Jean Jouzel replied by reiterating the four main findings from the IPCC’s sixth report of 9 August 2021:

  • The global warming process that our planet has been experiencing since the start of the 20th century, and which has led to a 1.1°C rise in global temperatures, is entirely due to human activity. 
  • If we do not do anything, humanity is going to have to deal with a rise in temperatures of 4-5°C. For Jean Jouzel ‘Doing nothing is not an option’.
  • The extreme events we are seeing today are consistent with what the IPCC’s reports have been anticipating since the 2000s. Jean Jouzel mentioned the recent heatwave exceeding 50°C in Canada, torrential rainfalls in Belgium and Germany, droughts and intense cyclones. These events, linked to human activity and associated with global warming, are set to become increasingly extreme.
  • The Paris Agreement set out a global framework to limit the average rise in temperatures to 2°C if not 1.5°C, by attaining carbon neutrality by 2050 and thereby avoiding consequences such as rising sea levels and the disappearance of coral. Over 80 jurisdictions have announced their intention to pursue this objective, including France, Europe, the USA and China (the latter for 2060).


For Jean Jouzel, “Education has a central role to play in transition. Young people are in closer contact with environmental education and they’re starting to be trained in the issues, beginning in primary school and continuing to the end of high school.” 

One of the new missions of higher education is to educate students about the broad subject of ecological transition. This mission also applies to executive education, where it provides a means to reach generations that have received less education on the subject.

During the conference, students asked questions about sustainable finance, a subject notably taught at EDHEC. For Jean Jouzel, there is now real recognition of climate change issues on the part of the finance industry, as well as in the agricultural, insurance, property and transport sectors. According to Jean Jouzel, a growing proportion of people in these sectors are involved in transition, and the challenge is now more to ensure the rest of the company is also engaged in strategic decision-making on the subject.

Jean Jouzel also underlined the importance of the media, conferences and debates for informing the greatest number of people, in addition to the information gathered from family and friends. The scientist addressed the students in attendance directly: “We need to take measures collectively to ensure your generation can adapt to what is now an inevitable process of global warming. The only way for us to adapt, is to restrict the extent of it. This requires political decisions. We need to target carbon neutrality by 2050. This should be a challenge that occupies you over the next 30 years.

ACTION by governments and the private and professional spheres

Governments listen to and consult the scientific community, but for Jean Jouzel ‘There’s a gulf between countries’ official objectives and the reality of the situation’.

In the scientist’s view, everybody has a role to play. Firstly, governments need to place themselves in an international framework and promote ambitious agreements. This is a hard task, but it’s the government’s role to transpose these agreements into law and regulations. “A large number of important decisions are also taken on a regional basis. The regions need to tackle the realities of climate change head on.

There’s also a need for continuity between the private and professional spheres. For Jean Jouzel “No sector of activity can say ‘global warming’s not my problem’”. The scientist listed the main emitting sectors: transport, housing, urbanism and food production. 

Although the climatologist sees less climate scepticism today, he is also concerned about a crucial lack of international solidarity and the risk of thinking that governments will know how to deal with natural catastrophes when they occur.  

With reference to the Glasgow, Kyoto, Copenhagen and Paris Agreements, Jean Jouzel detailed the international community’s failures and successes in attaining the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. ‘I’m convinced that the country or block [USA, Europe, China or India] that assumes leadership in the fight against climate change will also assume economic leadership of the planet.

Jean Jouzel replied to questions from Agora and members of the public concerning the current presidential election period in France: ‘‘I regret that there’s not been a lot of debate about ecology in the broad sense for the moment." And then added: ''I believe ecology should form part of the strategy of all parties’.

In conclusion, the climatologists responded to technical questions on the subjects of renewable energies and capitalism in general: “I believe in a different kind of growth model and in innovation. What’s disturbing are the inequalities inherent to capitalism. Ecological transition is going to be social in nature or it won’t happen. Capitalism at present does not take account of negative externalities […]. It’s possible to have no growth in GDP, without any decrease in the quality of life and the quality of jobs: this is what we need to attain in my view. I believe we need to change our behaviour collectively.

A conference in the public interest, made possible by the precise and well-documented work of Agora students and by a concerned public.



Find out more about the EDHEC MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance

Find out more about the EDHEC strategic plan 'Impact Future Generations' 

Find out more about the EDHEC 'Future of Finance' speaker series


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