Enhancing life cycle impact assessment from climate science: Review of recent findings and recommendations for application to LCA
Journal article, 2016

Since the Global Warming Potential (GWP) was first presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) First Assessment Report, the metric has been scrutinized and alternative metrics have been suggested. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report gives a scientific assessment of the main recent findings from climate metrics research and provides the most up-to-date values for a subset of metrics and time horizons. The objectives of this paper are to perform a systematic review of available midpoint metrics (i.e. using an indicator situated in the middle of the cause-effect chain from emissions to climate change) for well-mixed greenhouse gases and near-term climate forcers based on the current literature, to provide recommendations for the development and use of characterization factors for climate change in life cycle assessment (LCA), and to identify research needs. This work is part of the ‘Global Guidance on Environmental Life Cycle Impact Assessment’ project held by the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative and is intended to support a consensus finding workshop. In an LCA context, it can make sense to use several complementary metrics that serve different purposes, and from there get an understanding about the robustness of the LCA study to different perspectives and metrics. We propose a step-by-step approach to test the sensitivity of LCA results to different modelling choices and provide recommendations for specific issues such as the consideration of climate-carbon feedbacks and the inclusion of pollutants with cooling effects (negative metric values).

Well-mixed greenhouse gas

Climate change

Climate metric

Life cycle assessment (LCA)

Near-term climate forcer


A. Levasseur

École Polytechnique de Montréal

O. Cavalett

Centro Nacional de Pesquisa em Energia e Materiais

J. Fuglestvedt

Cicero Senter for klimaforskning

T. Gasser

Universite de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

CIRAD Centre de Recherche de Montpellier

Daniel Johansson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

S. V. Jorgensen


M. Raugei

Oxford Brookes University

A. Reisinger

New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre

G. Schivley

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

A. H. Stromman

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

K. Tanaka

National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan

F. Cherubini

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Ecological Indicators

1470-160X (ISSN)

Vol. 71 163-174

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Climate Research



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