New Badass in Town: Jean-Marc Jancovici (Radio Ecoshock interview)

Jean-Marc Jancovici

Step aside all you established peak oil and climate change pontificators. There’s a new badass in town and he’s an engineer who specializes in energy and climate which means you don’t stand a chance. 🙂

It’s very rare to find someone who can articulately explain in one hour, without hyperbole or bullshit, everything important going on in the world, including the underlying causes, what the future holds, and what we should do in response. Jean-Marc Jancovici is one of those rare gems.

Jancovici’s native language is French so English works by him are scarce. I’ve already posted the only other recent English talk that I’m aware of here.

Today’s interview with Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock is a treat. After investing an hour here you will understand much more about the issues that matter than 99% of the people in the world.

Alex Smith wrote a very nice summary of his interview here:



Following are a few quotes from the interview that I thought were noteworthy. Notice how close Jancovici comes to discussing denial of reality on several occasions.


Tell me how much energy you use and I will tell you how you live.


Governments are not guided by [wise] advisors. They respond to external pressure.


The present standard of living cannot be sustained without the help of fossil fuels for physical reasons.


Two centuries ago the world was fully renewable and consisted of 1 billion peasants with a life expectancy of 30 years. [We therefore] know of at least one option available to us.


Every time you hear the words “energy consumption”, replace them with “fleet of machines” .


A future with no growth is considered unthinkable by so many people, including Nobel prize-winning economists, that nobody thinks about what to do if it happens for real.


Q: What do you think is the greatest soonest threat: peak oil or climate change?

A: I place my bets on the likelihood that nobody will understand what is happening with either of these threats.


No government understands that energy equals machines, and if machines work less, GDP goes down.

No political leader understands that climate change is already putting refugees on the road.


Think of peak oil and climate change as opposing scissor blades squeezing your finger. Asking which is worse does not make any sense.


You must wait over 10,000 years for surplus CO2 to evacuate from the atmosphere. There is no such thing as a reset button for climate change. The only thing we are sure of is the day that consequences become unbearable, it will become worse later on.


A huge misunderstanding is that energy is a sector of the economy rather than the blood of the economy.

10 thoughts on “New Badass in Town: Jean-Marc Jancovici (Radio Ecoshock interview)”

  1. I can’t sign into WordPress- never can figure out my user name and password. But Ivan Illich wrote “Energy and Equity” and his most famous quote is “Tell me how fast you go and I will tell you who you are” Tools for Conviviality and Deschooling Society are other writings that only old people remember. It would be doing the world a great favor to get people reading him again. Thanks Ellen

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. I watched his speech on French parlament. One could see that most of the audience had no idea what he is talking about and sat bored.


  3. Very interesting. All I would add is that industrial society has already failed. It only persists because nominal debt increases at least as fast as nominal GDP. When one takes into account depreciation, it is losing the Red Queen race.

    Right now, the core is maintaining itself at the expense of the periphery. The US is running on multiple tax cuts this year (and the stock buybacks).

    But Jancovici could be wrong. I am waiting to see someone show us that surplus energy is increasing. Don’t show me that and I will go with Jancovici


    1. Yes, we are buying growth with debt which cannot and will not be repaid. Many disagree with me, but I think we are making the future much worse than it needed to be by denying the reality of our situation. We should adjust to live within our means as our means decline. With some smart leadership and luck we might be able to engineer a softer landing than the cliff we are currently speeding towards.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All are invited to take action with Transition Engineers – to reinvent and adapt our systems currently based on “fleets of machines” so that society can survive within foreseeable constraints, including professionals in engineering, natural and social sciences, obviously ecology and economics, also the creative professions. There is much that can be done to improve what lies ahead. Have a look at


  5. There is no doubt he sees the duality very clearly. If we run down our oil supplies we cannot maintain civilization. If we continue, or even stop now burning fossil energy we initiate horrific climate effects. Either way our industrial society is over. A drop in fossil fuel use also threatens our ability to maintain nuclear facilities via continuation of the ever need in repair electrical grid.
    So civilization all over the world is done. This was an experiment that will run to it’s logical outcome of extinction. We cannot poison our biosphere, lay waste to the oceans, chemically modify virtually every aspect of our internal human milieu or any other organism perpetually and not pay the piper. Nature is indifferent to being indifferent to being indifferent, and to rebel against it was hedonistic suicide.
    I may have been lucky and privileged to be living in this time, but if I had had the choice this time in history would not have been on the top of my list.


    1. we have indeed been privileged and lucky to have lived in the late 20th c. Not so the early 21st C. I would have taken leave in November 2015 with Maurice Strong, it would have broken his heart to see the COP 21 Paris agreement; a pyrrhic victory. And I’m only 64.


  6. A short fiction story, grounded in non-fiction, of life in 2048 by Jean-Marc Jancovici…

    Anne was not hungry: the 32 ° C in the kitchen removed her appetite. The outside temperature would not go down further in August, even at night, so inevitably the heat would come in everywhere. A powerful mistral raised clouds of ocher dust, torn from the fields below. Despite these conditions, she would have to go cycling to the neighboring village in the evening, if she wanted any chance of obtaining vegetables to improve the ration distributed by the Militia. In exchange for squash or tomatoes that still grew here and there, she would offer sewing, being one of the last in the region to always have a mechanical sewing machine. On a small scale, this neighborhood barter was tolerated by the Militia, because of the shortage of new clothes.


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