||This article may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, controversies or matters relative to the article subject as a whole. (June 2013)|
31 March 1937 |
In 1976, Allègre and volcanologist Haroun Tazieff had an intense, public quarrel about whether inhabitants should evacuate the surroundings of the erupting volcano la Soufrière in Guadeloupe. Allègre held that inhabitants should be evacuated, while Tazieff held that the Soufrière was harmless because all analyses pointed to a purely phreatic eruption with no sign of fresh magma. The authorities decided to evacuate. The eruption did not result in any major damage. The controversy dragged on for many years after the end of the eruption, and ended up in court.
Allègre co-authored an Introduction to geochemistry in 1974. Since the 1980s he mainly published books in popular science and politics.
A former member of the French Socialist Party, Allègre is better known to the general public for his past political responsibilities, which include serving as Minister of Education of France in the Jospin cabinet from 4 June 1997 to March 2000, when he was replaced by Jack Lang. His outpourings of critiques against teaching personnel, as well as his reforms, made him increasingly unpopular in the teaching world.
In the run-up to the 2007 French presidential election, he endorsed Lionel Jospin, then Dominique Strauss-Kahn, for the Socialist nomination, and finally sided with the ex-Socialist Jean-Pierre Chevènement, against Ségolène Royal. When Chevènement decided not to run, he publicly, and controversially, declined to support Royal's bid for the presidency, citing differences over nuclear energy, GMOs and stem-cell research. He later became close to conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Allègre believes that the causes of climate change are unknown.
In an article entitled "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in l'Express, a French weekly periodic, Allègre cited evidence that Antarctica's gaining ice and that Kilimanjaro's retreating snow caps, among other global-warming concerns, can come from natural causes. He claimed that "[t]he cause of this climate change is unknown".
Allègre has accused those agreeing with the mainstream scientific view of global warming of being motivated by money, saying that “the ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people!”
However, back in 1987, Allègre had written that "By burning fossil fuels, man increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which, for example, has raised the global mean temperature by half a degree in the last century".
- "He doesn't think the same as the 2,500 scientists of the IPCC, who are warning the world about a disaster; that's his right. But if he were to be recruited in government, it would become policy, and it would be a bras d'honneur to those scientists. [...] [It] would be a tragic signal, six months before the Copenhagen Conference, and something incomprehensible coming from France, which has been a leading country for years in the fight against climate change!"
In 2010, more than 500 French researchers asked Science Minister Valérie Pécresse to dismiss Allègre’s book L’imposture climatique, claiming the book was "full of factual mistakes, distortions of data, and plain lies". Swedish paleontologist Håkan Grudd called the changes that Allègre made in hand-redrawing a graph of his, misleading and unethical.  Allègre described the petition as "useless and stupid".
In 1996, Allègre opposed the removal of carcinogenic asbestos from the Jussieu university campus in Paris, describing it as harmless and dismissing concerns about it as a form of "psychosis created by leftists". The campus' asbestos is deemed to have killed 22 people and caused serious health problems in 130 others.
In 1999, the Canard enchaîné, and subsequently several other media, published Allègre's claim, initially stated during a radio interview, that, if one drops a pétanque ball and a tennis ball at the same time from a tower, they will reach the ground at the same time. Allègre claimed that there was a popular misconception to the contrary, and that schoolchildren should be made to understand that two objects always fall at the same speed. The Canard responded that this was true only in a vacuum, and not in all cases as Allègre had said. Allègre responded in turn, maintaining his initial statement. Georges Charpak, Nobel prize for Physics, intervened to explain that Allègre was wrong; Allègre maintained his statement yet again.
(Each falling ball experiences acceleration due to two main competing forces: gravity and air resistance. The acceleration due to gravity will be the same for both balls, regardless of mass [because F = ma = mg, so a = g], but the acceleration due to air resistance will be different because the balls have different sizes and surface textures. As a result, the balls' total accelerations will be different, as will their final speeds. If the balls fall in a vacuum, then there is no air resistance and their final speeds will be the same.)
Awards and honors
- Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (1985)
- Crafoord Prize for geology along with Gerald J. Wasserburg, (1986)
- Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, (1987)
- Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London, (1987)
- Gold Medal of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, (1994) 
- French Academy of Sciences, (1995)
- Allègre’1996 Geochemical Society Fellowship on the Society’s website
- (French) Biography on L’Étudiant.fr
- (French) Timeline of the Tazieff-Allègre controversy about La Soufrière.
- "ISI Highly Cited: Claude Allègre". Institute for Scientific Information. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- Allègre-Michard’s Introduction to chemistry on Googlebooks.
- Neiges du Kilimandjaro – La cause de la modification climatique reste inconnue. Donc, prudence, L'Express, 2006
- US Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee Archived 4 April 2010 at WebCite
- C. Allègre : 12 Clés pour la géologie, Belin/France Culture, 1987. Original quote in French : En brûlant des combustibles fossiles, l’homme a augmenté le taux de gaz carbonique dans l’atmosphère, ce qui fait, par exemple, que depuis un siècle la température moyenne du globe a augmenté d’un demi-degré.; also quoted in (French) Le Monde, October, 3 2006.
- "Pour Nicolas Hulot, Claude Allègre au gouvernement 'serait un signal tragique'", AFP, May 24, 2009 Archived 7 April 2010 at WebCite
- (French) Håkan Grudd’s statement on Libération.fr (March 2010)
- Science, vol 328, 9 April 2010
- "Claude Allègre: Qui a peur du 'serial gaffeur'?", Marianne, May 30, 2009, p.48
- (French) "Déjà 22 morts et 130 malades: Les amiantes de Jussieu » -At least 22 persons dead and 130 sick because of abestos in Jussieu-, in Nouvel Observateur, November 29, 2007 Archived 4 April 2010 at WebCite
- Initial articles in Le Canard enchaîné, February 24, March 3, 10 and 17 1999
- "Allegre, Claude J.". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
- "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
- "Médailles d'or". Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Retrieved 15 April 2011. (French)
- Cl.J. Allègre, G. Michard, R.N. Varney (1974), Introduction to Geochemistry (Springer). ISBN 90-277-0497-X
|Minister of Education