Better understanding of life cycle analysis can lead to less climate impact

The right tools are needed to reduce global emissions when making important investment decisions. This is shown by Helena Nydahl, Department of Applied Physics and Electronics, in her dissertation Key figures for communication of life cycle analysis results, which will be defended on October 10 at Umeå University.

– Prominent climate scientists believe that global emissions must reach zero by 2050 in order not to permanently damage our opportunities on earth. But how can one know whether one’s choices contribute positively or negatively to the climate? An important tool for being able to calculate a product’s climate impact is life cycle analysis, says Helena Nydahl.

How big is the climate impact from this particular product? Are there steps in the manufacturing process of the product that have a particularly large climate footprint? Are there equivalent products with a lower climate impact? Those kinds of questions can be answered with a life cycle analysis.

– More and more people in both the private and public sector are starting to use life cycle analysis as a decision-making tool. This is a positive development, but for life cycle analysis to really become a tool widely used by all types of decision makers, perhaps even by the common man, the understanding and interpretation of the life cycle analysis result is crucial. In order to be able to make choices that reduce global emissions, you have to understand the results that a life cycle analysis gives, and that can be difficult at the moment if you are not an expert, says Helena Nydahl.

Research in the area of ​​understanding and interpreting life cycle analysis results is limited. At the same time, economic sustainability is often valued highly by decision-makers. Therefore, Helena Nydahl’s thesis aims to contribute to the development of guidelines for interpreting life cycle assessment results, by introducing a communication approach to life cycle assessment results that is consistent with the economically driven nature of decision makers.

In her thesis, she presents key figures that quantify life-cycle economic and environmental effects in a way that has taken inspiration from decision-makers’ traditional economic key figures through, among other things, the pricing of carbon dioxide emissions.

– Hopefully, such an approach can increase the use of life cycle analysis as a tool in decision-making and at the same time increase the understanding of the results that the tool provides, says Helena Nydahl.