Uncertainty Management and Sensitivity Analysis

Ralph K. Rosenbaum, Stylianos Georgiadis, Peter Fantke

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Uncertainty is always there and LCA is no exception to that. The presence of uncertainties of different types and from numerous sources in LCA results is a fact, but managing them allows to quantify and improve the precision of a study and the robustness of its conclusions. LCA practice sometimes suffers from an imbalanced perception of uncertainties, justifying modelling choices and omissions. Identifying prevalent misconceptions around uncertainties in LCA is a central goal of this chapter, aiming to establish a positive approach focusing on the advantages of uncertainty management. The main objectives of this chapter are to learn how to deal with uncertainty in the context of LCA, how to quantify it, interpret and use it, and how to communicate it. The subject is approached more holistically than just focusing on relevant statistical methods or purely mathematical aspects. This chapter is neither a precise statistical method description, nor a philosophical essay about the concepts of uncertainty, knowledge and truth, although you will find a little bit of both. This chapter contains (1) an introduction of the essential terminology and concepts of relevance for LCA; (2) a discussion of main sources of uncertainty and how to quantify them; (3) a presentation of approaches to calculate uncertainty for the final results (propagation); (4) a discussion of how to use uncertainty information and how to take it into account in the interpretation of the results; and finally (5) a discussion of how to manage, communicate and present uncertainty information together with the LCA results.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLife Cycle Assessment: Theory and practice
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-56474-6
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Business and Management
  • Sustainability Management
  • Sustainable Development
  • Renewable and Green Energy
  • Manufacturing, Machines, Tools
  • Operating Procedures, Materials Treatment


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