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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Apr 15;44(8):3169-74. doi: 10.1021/es9030003.

Considering time in LCA: dynamic LCA and its application to global warming impact assessments.

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CIRAIG, Department of Chemical Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, P.O. Box 6079, Succ. Centre-ville, Montreal, Quebec H3C3A7, Canada.


The lack of temporal information is an important limitation of life cycle assessment (LCA). A dynamic LCA approach is proposed to improve the accuracy of LCA by addressing the inconsistency of temporal assessment. This approach consists of first computing a dynamic life cycle inventory (LCI), considering the temporal profile of emissions. Then, time-dependent characterization factors are calculated to assess the dynamic LCI in real-time impact scores for any given time horizon. Although generally applicable to any impact category, this approach is developed here for global warming, based on the radiative forcing concept. This case study demonstrates that the use of global warming potentials for a given time horizon to characterize greenhouse gas emissions leads to an inconsistency between the time frame chosen for the analysis and the time period covered by the LCA results. Dynamic LCA is applied to the US EPA LCA on renewable fuels, which compares the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of different biofuels with fossil fuels including land-use change emissions. The comparison of the results obtained with both traditional and dynamic LCA approaches shows that the difference can be important enough to change the conclusions on whether or not a biofuel meets some given global warming reduction targets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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