Abstract : How to account for irreversibility in integrated assessment of climate change? This Ph. D. thesis in Economics balances discounting, technical progress and the inertia of existing capital stock against uncertainty and the inertia of socio-economic systems to examine the issue of near term limitations of greenhouse gases emissions. After a general overview in chapter 2, and a more historical presentation of the debates in chapter 3, chapter 4 proceeds to review a large number of integrated assessment models.
Chapter 5 introduces a Model on the Dynamics of Inertia and Adaptability of energy systems : DIAM, used to discuss how much previous studies might have overestimated the long term costs of CO2 limitations and underestimated adjustment costs. It shows that, given a target date for atmospheric CO2 concentration stabilisation, a higher inertia implies a lower optimal concentration trajectory. In a sequential decision framework, chapter 6 shows that current uncertainties about which CO2 concentration ceiling would not present dangerous interference with the climate system justifies precautionary action.
Finally, chapter 7 uses the irreversibility effect theory to define formally situations of decision under controversy and compare the irreversibility of CO2 accumulation with the irreversibility of investments needed to moderate it. An option value for greenhouse gases emissions limitations is computed.