Product Carbon Footprints and Their Uncertainties in Comparative Decision Contexts

P. J. G. Henriksson, R. Heijungs, H. M. Dao, L. T. Phan, G. R. de Snoo, J. B. Guinee

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


In response to growing awareness of climate change, requests to establish product carbon footprints have been increasing. Product carbon footprints are life cycle assessments restricted to just one impact category, global warming. Product carbon footprint studies generate life cycle inventory results, listing the environmental emissions of greenhouse gases from a product's lifecycle, and characterize these by their global warming potentials, producing product carbon footprints that are commonly communicated as point values. In the present research we show that the uncertainties surrounding these point values necessitate more sophisticated ways of communicating product carbon footprints, using different sizes of catfish (Pangasius spp.) farms in Vietnam as a case study. As most product carbon footprint studies only have a comparative meaning, we used dependent sampling to produce relative results in order to increase the power for identifying environmentally superior products. We therefore argue that product carbon footprints, supported by quantitative uncertainty estimates, should be used to test hypotheses, rather than to provide point value estimates or plain confidence intervals of products' environmental performance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • life-cycle assessment variability sensitivity methodology parameter Science & Technology - Other Topics

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