The editor of this journal has been waiting for such a contribution of the life cycle assessment (LCA) practitioners and users for years, since the last debate of this kind dates back to beginning of the new century. It is remembered as the “Two planets debate” and coincided with the emergence of life cycle management, i.e. the use of life-cycle based methods in industry.
The “Two planets”
This is a metaphor coined at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Europe case studies symposium 2000 and designates the fact that many academic LCA developers and the LCA practitioners seem to live in different spheres. The editorial note by Baitz et al. shows that this seems to be true still today. It is argued that the practitioners do not frequently enough participate in the working groups organized by SETAC, the UNEP/SETAC life cycle initiative and other international organizations and therefore cannot bring in the practical experience they have acquired in performing “real-life” LCA studies. The new LCIA methods, for instance, are often not accepted by the LCA practitioners and commissioners, since essential aspects were not recognised during method development.
Tentative proposal for a solution
The solution of the problems pointed out in Baitz et al. cannot be to hinder the inhabitants of the academic planet in inventing ingenious new methods for reasons of academic freedom. It is proposed that new methods developed should be tested by practitioners in real-life LCA studies. Data asymmetries in comparative (i.e. most) LCA studies using more demanding methods may shift problems from LCIA to the LCI databases. With regard to the financing of such studies, it should be remembered that practitioners do their living by performing LCAs and other studies and have to calculate a full overhead in addition to the pure working costs.
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Klöpffer, W. Comment on the editorial note by Baitz et XXI aliis. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18, 14–16 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-012-0520-x
- LCIA methods
- Users of LCA