It almost went unnoticed. Just a little something in the report of the Scientific Council of the Academies of European Sciences (EASAC), on the evaluation of extreme weather events since the 1980s. To be more precise, it was an absence: that of French Academy of Sciences in the list of signatories of the report. Published on March 21, 2018, the document had the endorsement of all the academies of sciences of the European Union, except that of France … which is added the next day. The reflection of a simple oversight or a deeper disagreement on the subject?
The document updates a previous report, made in 2013, on natural disasters. Floods, droughts and other extreme events more than doubled on average between 1980 and 2016 and increased in intensity. The authors invite political decision-makers to commit "urgently" "additional actions" for "adaptation to climate change" so it seems astonishing that French Academy of Sciences did not sign either the 2013 or the 2018 report when it was published.
"It is important that all the academies of European science agree on the effects of climate change. to the action of man "
Five years ago, the institution abstained for the vote on the signature of the report of EASAC. "Their conclusions were not sufficiently substantiated" says Catherine Bréchignac, perpetual secretary at the Académie des sciences françaises. She invited Jean-Claude André, a member of the Academy's Environment Committee, to go into great detail. "I found that he was suffering from embarrassing limitations ," he says. The main one was that it was essentially based on data from a reinsurance company. " The authors estimated the severity of disasters from the cost of their insurance coverage. "Intensification of disasters can not be inferred from the increase in these costs. Insured property has increased in value, so there is an increase in the cost of insurance coverage ".
The increase in the intensity of disasters thus included a calculation bias due to inflation. This calculation bias was not taken into account in 2013. It is five years later. EASAC updated the data and carried out "evaluation of past events according to current economic standards" . After reading the document, the French Academy of Sciences asked to become a co-signer. "The Committee on the Environment asked me to call the president of EASAC to inform him that we agreed with the 2018 report", declares Catherine Bréchignac. A non-unanimous choice since Mr. André judges the new version of the report "not completely striking, but it goes in the right direction" . "The IPCC report [Groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat] is much more comprehensive and opens up on several angles of approach. The result is much stronger scientifically than a document that only reflects the knowledge or expertise of a limited group. " On the side of EASAC, we do not wish to make " no comment ". A source close to the record, however, states that "even if there was a simple misunderstanding, it is important that all academies of European science agree on the effects of climate change to the action of man. " It remains to be seen if they will be in the next few years when the report is updated again.