Whale oil production, consumption, and total value. Sources: [36-38].

Whale oil production, consumption, and total value. Sources: [36-38].

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Economic and social factors compel large-scale changes in energy systems. An ongoing transition in the United States is driven by environmental concerns, changing patterns of energy end-use, constraints on petroleum supply. Analysis of prior transitions shows that energy intensity in the U.S. from 1820 to 2010 features a declining trend when tradit...

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... whale oil production series from 1804 through 1905 is based on Clark (1887) [36], Starbuck (1878) [37], and Tower (1907) [38] (Figure 5). Sperm whale oil peaked in the early 1840s. ...

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Thesis
Face aux enjeux de changement climatique et de transition énergétique associés aux prévisions de croissance démographique au cours du XXIème siècle, l’agriculture doit se transformer pour produire plus de nourriture tout en réduisant sa dépendance aux ressources non-renouvelables et en préservant les écosystèmes. Dans ce contexte, cette thèse s’intéresse à examiner les impacts des contraintes biophysiques et des transformations sociotechniques sur le métabolisme agricole, les transitions et la capacité nourricière de l’agriculture. Le métabolisme agricole est modélisé par les flux d’énergie et d’azote que le système agricole mobilise et transforme pour fonctionner et fournir de la biomasse. Ce cadre analytique permet d’une part de positionner l’agriculture dans les enjeux de la transition énergétique et, d’autre part, de quantifier conjointement la capacité nourricière atteignable et son impact sur la biogéochimie planétaire. Nous examinons le métabolisme agricole à deux niveaux d’échelles spatio-temporelles : une modélisation en perspective historique de longue durée (1882-2016) à l’échelle de la France et une modélisation historique (1961-2013) et prospective à l’échelle du monde. L’analyse de l’agriculture en France s’appuie sur la modélisation des données historiques de productions et des moyens de productions. Nous mettons en lumière les mécanismes qui relient les entrées et sorties du système agricole, et les transitions énergétiques et azote associées de manière continue depuis 1882. Nous caractérisons la trajectoire française à l’aide d’indicateurs d’efficacité, de retour sur investissement énergétique, de surplus agricole, d’autosuffisance et de neutralité énergétique du système. La neutralité énergétique est un indicateur clé pour positionner l’agriculture dans la transition énergétique à venir. Nous retraçons l’impact des transformations sociotechniques sur les transitions qui ont fait quadrupler le surplus alimentaire des fermes et ont réduit presque à zéro leur autosuffisance énergétique. L’agriculture produisait en énergie deux fois ce qu’elle consommait en temps préindustriels contre quatre fois aujourd’hui, or elle est passée d’un système énergétiquement autonome nourri de biomasse à un système quasi-exclusivement nourri d’énergies fossiles. Exprimée en équivalent biomasse, la consommation actuelle d’énergie de l’agriculture est égale à sa production, ce qui en fait un système énergétiquement inintéressant. Le défi pour l’agriculture est de contribuer à la transition énergétique sans empiéter sur sa production alimentaire. Relever ce défi, qui est peu compris par la société, passe par l’amélioration de la performance énergétique de l’agriculture et implique l’amélioration de l’efficacité d’utilisation de l'azote ainsi que la réduction de l’élevage surtout des monogastriques, la valorisation énergétique d’une majorité des résidus agricoles et la réduction du travail au champ. La modélisation à l’échelle mondiale permet de caractériser la trajectoire de l’agriculture en termes de capacité nourricière et d’impact environnemental et d’évaluer sa capacité limite de production sur la base des contraintes biophysiques. Cette modélisation est un premier module centré sur le métabolisme azote et ne tient pas compte du mode de fonctionnement énergétique de l’agriculture. Nous examinons les limites de production alimentaire mondiale conjointement avec les pertes d’azote en fonction des degrés d’autosuffisance en azote. Nous montrons que la population humaine maximale supportable sur Terre peut varier de 6 à 17 milliards de personnes en fonction de la part de la production totale de grain utilisée dans l’alimentation animale, l’efficacité d’utilisation de l’azote et le régime de fertilisation azotée. Cette analyse permet de confronter, comme c’est rarement fait, les projections démographiques officielles pour le XXIe siècle à des contraintes biophysiques planétaires et discuter leurs conditions de réalisation.