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LCA Appropriate Tool for Assessing Environmental Impact of Forest Products, But Beware of Uncertainties
System analysis student in Bio4Energy Frida Røyne will be defending her PhD thesis on LCA and forest products 22 April at Umeå, Sweden. Photo by courtesy of Frida Røyne.
A well-known method for assessing the environmental and climate change impacts of products over their life-cycle is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Forest products are no exception in this respect. However, while there has been rising interest in applying LCA to check the impact of forest products designed to replace similar ones refined from fossil oil, in the last decade a discussion has been ongoing about how to account for greenhouse gas emissions and from which sources.
LCA is one of the most commonly used methods for environmental life-cycle assessments, but the correctness of an assessment's outcome relies heavily on the researcher's choice of method in designing his or her study, as well as the availability of relevant input data.
student who has dwelled into both these issues will be defending her thesis on
Exploring the Relevance of Uncertainty in the Life Cycle Assessment of Forest
Part of the new research and development platform
Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy
used recent cases studies—such as a "
Forest Chemistry" project
in which chemical and forestry industry in Sweden joined forces to try to assess whether a chemical industry cluster at Stenungsund could feasibly replace part of its fossil raw material base with forest-sourced feedstock—to draw conclusions as to whether LCA is a suitable method by which to assess forest products. However, being a generalist and employed by the
SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden
, Røyne also was interested in looking at the development of LCA as a method of systems analysis, its potential flaws and the way in which these were being communicated.
Her chief conclusion is that LCA is indeed an appropriate method for assessing the environmental and climate change impact of forest product systems, but that the use of additional methods—such as life-cycle management or scenario analysis—may be warranted and that, in each individual case, researchers have to ask themselves whether there are uncertainties and discuss these in their studies.