Modeling cumulative effects in life cycle assessment: The case of fertilizer in wheat production contributing to the global warming potential
Science of the Total Environment
This paper aims at presenting a dynamic indicator for life cycle assessment (LCA) measuring cumulative impacts over time of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fertilizers used for wheat cultivation and production. Our approach offers a dynamic indicator of global warming potential (GWP), one of the most used indicator of environmental impacts (e.g. in the Kyoto Protocol). For a case study, the wheat production in France was selected and considered by using data from official sources about fertilizer consumption and production of wheat. We propose to assess GWP environmental impact based on LCA method. The system boundary is limited to the fertilizer production for 1 ton of wheat produced (functional unit) from 1910 to 2010. As applied to wheat production in France, traditional LCA shows a maximum GWP impact of 500 kg CO2-eq for 1 ton of wheat production, whereas the GWP impact of wheat production over time with our approach to dynamic LCA and its cumulative effects increases to 18,000 kg CO2-eq for 1 ton of wheat production. In this paper, only one substance and one impact assessment indicator are presented. However, the methodology can be generalized and improved by using different substances and indicators.