Caldeira Lab

Methods for Attributing Land-use Emissions to Products

Steven Davis, Jennifer Burney, Julia Pongratz & Ken Caldeira

Davis, S., J. Burney, J. Pongratz and K Caldeira, Methods for attributing land-use emissions to products, 2014:Carbon Management, 5, 233–245, doi:10.1080/17583004.2014.913867.


Roughly one-third of anthropogenic GHG emissions are caused by agricultural and forestry activities and landuse change (collectively, ‘land-use emissions’). Understanding the ultimate drivers of these emissions requires attributing emissions to specific land-use activities and products. Although quantities of land-use emissions are matters of fact, the methodological choices and assumptions required to attribute those emissions to activities and products depend on research goals and data availability. In this review, we explore several possible accounting methods. Our results highlight the sensitivity of accounting to temporal distributions of emissions and the consequences of replacing spatially-explicit data with aggregate proxies such as production or harvested area data. Different accounting options emphasize different causes of land-use emissions (e.g., proximate or indirect drivers of deforestation). To support public policies that effectively balance competing objectives, analysts should carefully consider and communicate implications of accounting choices.