, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp 273-280

Application of uncertainty and variability in LCA

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Abstract

As yet, the application of an uncertainty and variability analysis is not common practice in LCAs. A proper analysis will be facilitated when it is clear which types of uncertainties and variabilities exist in LCAs and which tools are available to deal with them. Therefore, a framework is developed to classify types of uncertainty and variability in LCAs. Uncertainty is divided in (1) parameter uncertainty, (2) model uncertainty, and (3) uncertainty due to choices, while variability covers (4) spatial variability, (5) temporal variability, and (6) variability between objects and sources. A tool to deal with parameter uncertainty and variability between objects and sources in both the inventory and the impact assessment is probabilistic simulation. Uncertainty due to choices can be dealt with in a scenario analysis or reduced by standardisation and peer review. The feasibility of dealing with temporal and spatial variability is limited, implying model uncertainty in LCAs. Other model uncertainties can be reduced partly by more sophisticated modelling, such as the use of non-linear inventory models in the inventory and multi media models in the characterisation phase.