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Sustainable management of ecosystem: Integration of life cycle and scenario approaches


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This study proposes a new method that integrates life cycle approach and scenario approach in order to assess sustainability of ecosystem management considering both environmental and socio-economic impacts. The developed method is applied to explore a harmonious balance between conservation and use of mangroves in Thailand, especially focusing on two main dimensions: local socio-economic (e.g. employment, income) and global environmental dimensions (e.g. climate change).
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This article is based on the work of the SETAC-Europe LCA Working Group ‘Scenario Development in LCA’, which has started its work in April 1998. The goal of the Working Group is to focus on the use of scenarios in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This article presents the results of the first phase of the Working Group. The previous definitions of scenarios include three common basic elements: the definition of alternative future circumstances, the path from the present to the future, and the inclusion of uncertainty in the concept. We define a scenario in LCA as “a description of a possible future situation relevant for specific LCA applications, based on specific assumptions about the future, and (when relevant) also including the presentation of the development from the present to the future.’ On the basis of the scenario definition we distinguish between two basic approaches for scenario development in LCA studies: What-if scenarios and Cornerstone scenarios. What-if scenarios are used to gain operational information and to compare two or more alternatives in a well-known situation with a short time horizon where the researcher is familiar with the decision problem and can set defined hypothesis on the basis of existing data. The Cornerstone scenario approach offers strategic information for long term planning, new ways of seeing the world, and also guidelines in the field of study. Results of a study using the Cornerstone scenario approach often serve as a basis for further, more specific research where the scenarios can be defined according to What-if scenarios. The frames of the scenarios are defined in the first phase of LCA, the goal and scope definition. Scenario development does, however, influence all of the following phases of LCA. The frames of the scenarios form the basis for modelling product systems and environmental impacts associated with products and services, which are not exactly known due to lacking information on parts of the life cycle.
It is common to have numerous alternatives and conditions that remain uncertain, but these need to be assessed in decision-making processes. Investigators introduce decision-makers’ anticipations and assumptions into analysis when building strategies as a form of scenario. In such a way, scenario analysis is often used as a powerful vehicle for decision making. While a number of LCA case studies dealing with scenarios have been performed, structured frameworks integrating LCA with scenario analysis methodologies have not yet been established. In this paper, we first propose a general framework for scenario-based LCA. The framework provides retrospective and prospective studies with a clear structure. The most important characteristic of the structure is the recognition and separation of three modeling processes, lifecycle modeling, scenario modeling, and valuation modeling, to aim at an increase in reviewability of the entire study and reusability of the constructed models. Next, we introduce a tool, termed lifecycle modeling language (LCML), developed for modeling lifecycle systems and valuation procedures with its relevant scenarios within the proposed framework. LCML facilitates accumulating knowledge obtained from scenario-based LCA studies, by reusing the constructed models, or by applying the same patterns identified from the LCML description, and contributes to reducing the time and efforts needed for an investigation. An illustrative example is presented to show the functionality of LCML.
Goal, Scope, and Background In Japan, the abatement of CO2 emission by households is a significant problem. Hence, it is necessary to formulate a long-term policy on the use of long-life and highly-insulating technologies for houses; these technologies are expected to reduce CO2 emission. The conventional LCA methodology can evaluate the environmental impact of these technologies, while not necessarily providing sufficient information to support policy-making because of its analytical perspective. The aim of the present study is to first develop a new methodology to examine the optimal use of technologies to formulate an environmental policy by considering dynamic socio-economic conditions. Second, as a demonstration, such a developed methodology is applied to explore an environmentally conscious housing policy for CO2 abatement in Japan. Methods A new methodology was developed, considering the context of a society where technologies are introduced, in order to determine the optimal configuration of technologies to minimize the cumulative environmental burden over time on a social scale. An inter-temporal linear programming model using an input-output table was formulated to make the methodology operational. Using the new model, the optimal use of long-life and thermal-insulating technologies for houses is examined to minimize CO2 emissions across the entire life cycle of all the houses in Japan. Results and Discussion The results of the model simulation indicate that not only long-life and highly-insulating technologies, but also short-life and poorly-insulating technologies, are required to minimize CO2 emissions over a long period. According to the conventional LCA, a house with a short life is inferior to that with a long life, and a house with poor insulation is inferior to that with high insulation. However, houses with a short life and/or poor insulation are introduced in a transition phase to a certain extent before the final stage is reached that is completely dominated by highly-insulated houses with a long life. In other words, the existing houses that were built in the past are gradually replaced with highly-insulated houses with a long life after first building houses with a short life and/or poor insulation. It is not always feasible or not necessarily an optimal solution on a social scale to introduce only a technology that is best evaluated by using the conventional LCA. Inferior technologies can also play a significant role because of various socio-economic conditions and requirements, e.g. population decline, limited housing budgets, and employment stability. Dynamic socio-economic conditions significantly influence the optimal mix of technologies for CO2 minimization in the entire society. Conclusion and Recommendation The present study suggests that it is critical to consider dynamic socio-economic conditions when examining technologies for selection with the aim of a long-term reduction of the environmental burden. The new methodology proposed can provide valuable information to support policy-making toward a sustainable society.
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