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Updated LCA Climate Metrics. Presentation at meeting of US TAG 207 August 4, 2014 Washington, D.C. Tobias C. L. Schultz and Stanley Rhodes SCS Global Services. Public Discussion and Review of LCA Climate Metrics.

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updated lca climate metrics

Updated LCA Climate Metrics

Presentation at meeting of US TAG 207

August 4, 2014

Washington, D.C.

Tobias C. L. Schultz and Stanley Rhodes

SCS Global Services

public discussion and review of lca climate metrics
Public Discussion and Review of LCA Climate Metrics

LCA Climate Metrics are included in a publicly available draft ANSI standard, which has completed its public comment period.

The metrics have separately been reviewed by industry, government, ENGOs, and leading climate scientists, with widespread support.

Applications of the metrics have been presented to:

  • American Geophysical Union (December 2013).
  • UNEP-SETAC (Basel, 2014).
  • American Center for LCA (October 2013).
  • And others.

Metrics will be presented to presented to SETAC North America in November.

the global climate cause effect chain based on ipcc ar 5
The Global Climate Cause-Effect Chainbased on IPCC AR 5

1. Emissions released, human-caused and natural

2. Increasing atmospheric


3. Increases in global and regional radiativeforcing

Scope of LCA Characterization

4. Additional heat trapped in the Earth-atmosphere system from integrated radiative forcing

5. Increase in the Global Mean Temperature (GMT)

6. Accelerating climate change as GMT rises above key thresholds

7. Dangerous impacts to resources, ecosystems, frequency and intensity of extreme events, coastal areas.

environmental relevance according to iso 14044
Environmental Relevance According to ISO 14044

ISO 14044 recommends that indicators used in comparisons should be environmentally relevant, and that environmental relevance should consider:

  • ⎯ the condition of the category endpoint(s),
  • ⎯ the relative magnitude of the assessed change in the category endpoints,
  • ⎯ the spatial aspects, such as area and scale,
  • ⎯ the temporal aspects, such as duration, residence time, persistence, timing, etc.,
  • ⎯ the reversibility of the environmental mechanism, and
  • ⎯ the uncertainty of the linkages between the category indicators and the category endpoints.

ISO 14044 § “Environmental relevance encompasses a qualitative assessment of the degree of linkage between category indicator results and category endpoints: for example, high, moderate or low linkage.”

selecting environmentally relevant indicators
Selecting Environmentally Relevant Indicators

Node in cause effects chain

As one proceeds along the cause-effects chain, the relevance increases, but the uncertainty in measurement also increases.

Environmental relevance is the degree of linkage to endpoints, considering both these sources of uncertainty.

The most environmentally relevant indicator is selected subject to these constraints.

Environmental relevance

selecting the environmentally relevant indicator for global climate change
Selecting the Environmentally Relevant Indicator for Global Climate Change

Integrated radiative forcing

Environmental relevance

radiative forcing
Radiative Forcing

The Earth is continually bathed in

radiative energy from the sun.

Upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere:

  • Some sunlight is reflected (scattered)
  • Some is absorbed in the atmosphere
  • Some is absorbed by the Earth’s surface
  • Some is reflected by the Earth’s surface

The Earth’s surface emits infra-red radiation:

  • Some escapes into space
  • Some is absorbed by the Earth’s atmos-phere on its way out (the greenhouse effect)

Image source: http://law.wlu.edu/deptimages/journal%20of%20energy,%20climate,%20and%20the%20environment/Earth_Western_Hemisphere_white_background.jpg

radiative forcing anomaly
Radiative Forcing Anomaly

Climate forcers warm or cool the Earth, by absorbing or reflecting radiativeheat.

Anthropogenic emissions have increased concentrations of many climate forcers. These forcers can:

  • Increase the amount of radiative heat trapped (warming)
  • Increase the amount of sunlight reflected (cooling)

Radiative forcing is a measure of the net additional heat trapped by a climate forcer.

It is measured in Watts per meter squared (W/m2), or milli-Watts per meter squared (mW/m2). It can be positive or negative.

understanding the effects from changes in radiative forcing
Understanding the Effects from Changes in Radiative Forcing

The Krakatoa volcanic eruption dropped Global Mean RF by -3.4 W/m2, causing global temperatures to drop by ~1°C for three years, resulting in widespread crop losses and famine.

black carbon the second most powerful climate forcer global mean rf 1 1 w m 2
Black Carbon: The Second Most Powerful Climate Forcer (Global Mean RF =+1.1 W/m2)
  • Black Carbon Hot Spot over South Asia
  • Δ RF =+12 W/m2
  • Size = 1 million sq. km.
  • Duration: Constant year-round
  • Sources: Cooking fires, coal combustion

Radiative Forcing of Black and Brown Carbon (W/m2)

Source: Chung, C.E., V. Ramanathan, et al. 2005.

using radiative forcing to develop climate metrics
Using Radiative Forcing to Develop Climate Metrics

GWPs are a measure of global mean integrated radiative forcing, over a time horizon.

This is compared to the integrated forcing of CO2 over the same time horizon.

  • GWPs have been established for all types of climate forcers.

The updated metrics the GWP measurement, but the factor is called the Global Forcing Potential (GFP).

The IPCC AR5 notes that “Global Warming Potential” can be a misleading term:

  • GWP does not consider temperature, only forcing, and do not consider coolants.

100 Years

20 Years

key parameters in assessing integrated radiative forcing
Key Parameters in Assessing Integrated Radiative Forcing

Accounting for all climate forcers (both positive and negative climate forcers).

Selecting the time horizons based on maximum temperature targets.

Including indirect effects on the climate (e.g. for methane and black carbon).

Developing characterization factors to account for regional and source variability.

Using updated terminology.

targets are linked to temperature thresholds
Targets are linked to Temperature Thresholds




Thresholds of increasing irreversibility

significance of these temperature thresholds
Significance of these Temperature Thresholds

Projected impacts when GMT anomaly reaches +2.0°C.

Projected impacts when GMT anomaly reaches +4.0°C.

Even with global mitigation of all emissions, the +1.5°C GMT anomaly will be exceeded.

The Alliance of Small Island States and 49 Least Developed Countries have advocated that the +1.5°C be selected as the maximum temperature target under UNFCCC agreements.


In the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, +2.0°C was agreed to as the maximum temperature target. The United States was a party to this agreement.

3 feet of sea level rise

Unprecedented heat extremes: July in the central U.S. will be 9°C (20°F) warmer





Coral reefs decimated by bleaching.

Effects to water supplies , including a 40% reduction in surface water supplies in the Mississippi River Basin.

As much as an 80% reduction in surface water in the Mississippi River Basin.

+1.5°C Threshold (2035) Possible point of Arctic destabilization, and projected loss of small island states into the oceans.

+2.0°C Threshold (2050) The point beyond which dangerous climate interference will occur, according to international consensus.

+4.0°C Threshold (2100) This threshold is considered by many scientists to be “potentially catastrophic“.

Significant declines in food production in all world regions.

potential consequences of the 4 0 temperature threshold
Potential Consequences of the +4.0°Temperature Threshold

+4.0°C: last exceeded 25 millions years ago

complete accounting reveals new mitigation opportunities
Complete Accounting Reveals New Mitigation Opportunities

Current metrics hide potential of projects for reducing black carbon emissions.

They underestimate the benefit of projects to reduce methane emissions.

As discussed, these types are projects are necessary to avoid exceeding +2°C.

“Dangerous” warming per Copenhagen Accord





ipcc established gwps for slcfs
IPCC Established GWPs for SLCFs

IPCC AR5 report synthesizes the consensus science on GWPs for SLCFs.

Includes global average values for black and organic carbon, and regionally differentiated values for NOx.

  • Values for black carbon must be updated to account for regional variability in forcing.
accounting for regional variability of black carbon
Accounting for Regional Variability of Black Carbon

The type of source of an emission is also very important.

  • The GWP for black carbon from biomass combustion is about 50% higher than the GWP for diesel fuel combustion.

Accounting must consider the region of emission.

  • The GWP of black carbon can vary by 30% or more, based on the region of emission.

Radiative Forcing of Black and Brown Carbon (W/m2).

Source: Chung, C.E., V. Ramanathan, et al. 2005.

calculating regional gwp values for black carbon using consensus science
Calculating Regional GWP Values for Black Carbon Using Consensus Science

Applying the framework, findings from consensus climate science undergo a data quality assessment to establish GWP values for black carbon.

Three radiative effects of black carbon:

“Direct” effect: darkened atmosphere absorbs more sunlight.

Snow and ice effects: darkened surfaces absorb more sunlight.

Cloud interactions: Cloud distributions, structure, and presence are altered by black carbon inside and outside the cloud.

the importance of sulfate cooling
The Importance of Sulfate Cooling

IPCC AR5 estimates that cooling from sulfates today masks 75% of the radiative forcing caused by CO2.

Since 1800, sulfate cooling has mitigated 30-50% of global warming.

  • It has masked more than 50% of the warming caused by the United States.
tracking global so 2 emissions
Tracking Global SO2 Emissions

2011: 85 million tons of sulfur emissions (MACEB, 2013)

changes in so 2 emissions over time
Changes in SO2 Emissions Over Time

Since 1980:

60% decrease in emissions in USA and Europe

300% increase in China

Source: Smith, et al. 2011.

mapping trends us sulfate cooling zones have dissipated
Mapping Trends: US Sulfate Cooling Zones have Dissipated

1999 SulfateCooling Zone

2009 SulfateCooling Zone

Regional Cooling = -4.0 W/m2

Regional Cooling = -1.0 W/m2

According to Harvard and NASA research (2011), this loss in sulfate cooling has raised regional mean temperatures by over +1oC.

lca characterization modeling sharp increase in the chinese sulfate cooling zone 1978 2008
LCA Characterization Modeling: Sharp Increase in the Chinese Sulfate Cooling Zone (1978-2008)

1978 SulfateCooling Zone

2008 SulfateCooling Zone

Regional Cooling = -1.0 W/m2

Regional Cooling = -8.0 W/m2

health impacts a ssociated with chinese sulfate cooling zone
Health Impacts Associated with Chinese Sulfate Cooling Zone

Trade-off: Lung cancer rates have doubled in China, and asthma now affects 30% of children in the region.

implications of dissipation of chinese sulfate cooling zone
Implications of Dissipation of Chinese Sulfate Cooling Zone


  • IPCC AR5 projections do not include significant reductions in SO2 emissions in China.
  • China is working to reduce emissions from coal power plants and other industries. Since AR5 was published, China has invested $350 billion to reduce SO2 emissions.
  • An unintended consequence would be an immediate increase in global forcing.
applying the global temperature thresholds in practice
Applying the Global Temperature Thresholds in Practice

The Global Warming Potential (GWP) equation, defined by IPCC, is used. Any one of three time horizons can be used, each with different implications:

  • 1.5°C threshold: 20-year time horizon.

Use of this threshold focuses on near-term mitigation options, such as mitigation of short-lived climate forcers.

  • 2°C Threshold: 35-year time horizon.

Use of this threshold focuses on mitigation options targeted at averting major irreversible climate change.

  • 4°C Threshold: 100-year time horizon.

Use of this threshold focuses on mitigation of emissions of long-lived GHGs.

basis of global forcing potentials
Basis of Global Forcing Potentials

The updated climate metrics are not based in original research.

  • IPCC AR5 Chapter 8 has metric values for all of the GHGs, most of which can be used without change. However, some of these values must be updated.
  • Establishment of GFPs is well-established in the peer-reviewed literature.
  • GFP values are based on published findings.

The climate metrics assimilate published data into a single unified framework.

Example data sources:

  • Chapter 8 of IPCC AR5
  • Collins, et al. (2013). Global and regional temperature-change potentials for near-term climate forcers. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 2471-2485, 2013.
  • Shindell, D.T., (2009). Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing from Emissions. Vol. 326, 716-718. Science, October 2009.
  • Joos, F., et al (2013). Carbon dioxide and climate impulse response functions for the computation of greenhouse gas metrics: a multi-model analysis, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 2793-2825, doi:10.5194/acp-13-2793-2013, 2013.
  • Reisinger, A., M. Meinshausen, M. Manning, and G. Bodeker (2010), Uncertainties of global warming metrics: CO2 and CH4 , Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14707, doi:10.1029/2010GL043803.
  • Bond, T. C., et al. (2013), Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, 5380–5552, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50171.
  • Bond, T., et al. Quantifying immediate radiative forcing by black carbon and organic matter with the Specific Forcing Pulse. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 1505-1525, 2011.
updating the gwp of methane
Updating the GWP of Methane

IPCC has updated the GWP for methane, including one additional effect.

The climate effects of methane are complex:

Absorbs infrared radiation directly

Effects plant growth

On decay, forms ozone and CO2

Forms stratospheric water vapor

Decreases sulfate aerosol cooling

Commonly used GWP value (23) only accounts for one effect over 100 years

NASA scientists have assessed estimates including all other effects, resulting in even higher values.

The metrics include all climate effects of methane for which accurate data is available.

outputs of updated climate metrics
Outputs of Updated Climate Metrics

Climate Footprints

  • Evaluate the net integrated forcing out to one of the three GMT anomaly thresholds
  • Measured in units of kg CO2e
  • To be used as the basis of any LCA comparisons

Climate Forcing Profiles

  • Represents net forcing over the next 100 years
  • Measured in units of milli-Watts per square meter, in each year
  • Used to understand changes in radiative forcing over time
  • Through integration, can be used to calculate Climate Footprints
applying climate metrics to a refrigerator
Applying Climate Metrics to a Refrigerator
  • 14 years of use in Georgia, US
  • 477 kWh/yr.
  • Made in China
refrigerator climate footprint changes over time
Refrigerator Climate Footprint Changes over Time

Coal power plant in Inner Mongolia

2035 Climate Footprint = 9,900 kilograms

2050 Climate Footprint = 7,900 kilograms

Emissions of short-lived forcers during manufacture

2100 Climate Footprint = 7,700 kilograms

Emissions of CO2 from use accumulate over 14 years

Long-lived gases remain in atmosphere for 100+ years

China is one of the world’s largest emitters of black carbon!

100+ years


American VS Chinese Manufacturing

(Based on 2035 Climate Footprint)

Potential Impact Reductions

Switching site of manufacture

5M tons

25% efficiency improvement

1M tons


The updated climate metrics should include:

  • Factor in internationally-agreed upon maximum temperature targets.
  • Include all climate forcers, including black carbon.
  • Accurately account for the forcing effects of methane.
  • Account for effects from coolants.
  • Complete LCA information output: Calculating Climate Forcing Profiles and three changes in the Climate Footprint over the three critical time horizons.
Questions? Please Contact:Tobias Schultz, Life Cycle Assessment Practitioner

SCS Global Services