Framework for modelling data uncertainty in life cycle inventories

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Abstract

Modelling data uncertainty is not common practice in life cycle inventories (LCI), although different techniques are available for estimating and expressing uncertainties, and for propagating the uncertainties to the final model results. To clarify and stimulate the use of data uncertainty assessments in common LCI practice, the SETAC working group ‘Data Availability and Quality’ presents a framework for data uncertainty assessment in LCI. Data uncertainty is divided in two categories: (1) lack of data, further specified as complete lack of data (data gaps) and a lack of representative data, and (2) data inaccuracy. Filling data gaps can be done by input-output modelling, using information for similar products or the main ingredients of a product, and applying the law of mass conservation. Lack of temporal, geographical and further technological correlation between the data used and needed may be accounted for by applying uncertainty factors to the non-representative data. Stochastic modelling, which can be performed by Monte Carlo simulation, is a promising technique to deal with data inaccuracy in LCIs.