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How to Conduct a Proper Sensitivity Analysis in Life Cycle Assessment: Taking into Account Correlations within LCI Data and Interactions within the LCA Calculation Model

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journal contribution
posted on 06.01.2015, 00:00 by Wei Wei, Pyrene Larrey-Lassalle, Thierry Faure, Nicolas Dumoulin, Philippe Roux, Jean-Denis Mathias
Sensitivity analysis (SA) is a significant tool for studying the robustness of results and their sensitivity to uncertainty factors in life cycle assessment (LCA). It highlights the most important set of model parameters to determine whether data quality needs to be improved, and to enhance interpretation of results. Interactions within the LCA calculation model and correlations within Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) input parameters are two main issues among the LCA calculation process. Here we propose a methodology for conducting a proper SA which takes into account the effects of these two issues. This study first presents the SA in an uncorrelated case, comparing local and independent global sensitivity analysis. Independent global sensitivity analysis aims to analyze the variability of results because of the variation of input parameters over the whole domain of uncertainty, together with interactions among input parameters. We then apply a dependent global sensitivity approach that makes minor modifications to traditional Sobol indices to address the correlation issue. Finally, we propose some guidelines for choosing the appropriate SA method depending on the characteristics of the model and the goals of the study. Our results clearly show that the choice of sensitivity methods should be made according to the magnitude of uncertainty and the degree of correlation.