Life Cycle Impact Assessment: A comparison of three contemporary methodologies

University essay from KTH/Energiteknik

Author: Simon Andersson; Martin Listén; [2014]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: This thesis compares the Ecological Scarcity Method 2006, EPS 2000 and ReCiPe 2008, three contemporary methods for life cycle impact assessment, in order to provide a better understanding of what differentiates the methods, with regards to application and ideological standpoint. A basic understanding of the environmental situation, as well as life cycle assessment is given, and it is shown that life cycle impact assessments - attempts at quantifying the total environmental impact over the entire life cycle of a product or process - is  of relevance regarding the current environmental challenges. In a qualitative comparison, it is shown that, while the approaches to impact assessment differ, the methods follow over time increasingly similar mathematic formulas. A quantitative comparison between the models, where the total presumed effect of certain impact parameters is compared to that of carbon dioxide, shows that while several outliers are observed, similarities appear to be strongest across methods using either the midpoint or the endpoint approach. A case study of the estimated impact of each method using hard coal and peat, as well as nuclear power and wind power as energy resources, show that the results sometimes differ greatly. It is therefore concluded that knowledge about the methods is of great importance when choosing what LCIA method to use for certain applications. It is also concluded that the ecological scarcity method is most suitable for use when a strong connection to political targets is of importance. It is further found that the EPS method can provide valuable guidelines for policy makers and political activists. It is finally concluded that the greatest strength of ReCiPe is that it allows reviewing products with regards to different ideological perspectives.

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