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Sources of uncertainty in the IPCC Tier 2 Canadian livestock model

Karimi-Zindashty, Y., MacDonald, J.D., Desjardins, R.L., Worth, D.E., Hutchinson, J.J., and Vergé, X.P.C. (2012). "Sources of uncertainty in the IPCC Tier 2 Canadian livestock model.", Journal of Agricultural Science, 150(5), pp. 556-569. doi : 10.1017/s002185961100092x  Access to full text


Estimates of uncertainties are essential when comparing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a variety of sources. Monte Carlo Simulation (MCS) was applied to estimate the uncertainties in methane emissions and the methane emission intensities from livestock in Canada, calculated using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methodology. National methane emissions from enteric fermentation and manure management in 2008 were 212 and 43 Teragram CO2 equivalents (Tg CO2e) with uncertainties of 38 and 73%, respectively. The methane emission intensities (kg of CO 2e per kg of live animal weight) were 59, 09 and 49 from Canadian beef, swine and lamb, respectively, with overall uncertainties of 44, 99 and 101%, defined as the 95% confidence interval relative to the mean. A sensitivity analysis demonstrated that IPCC default parameters such as the methane conversion rate (Y m), the coefficient for calculating net energy for maintenance (Cfi) and the methane conversion factor (MCF) were the greatest sources of uncertainty. Canadian agricultural methane emissions are usually calculated by province and by animal subcategories. However, the IPCC default parameters can be assumed to be correlated among regions and animal subcategories; therefore values are assigned at the national scale for the main cattle categories (dairy and non-dairy cattle). When it was assumed that these parameters were uncorrelated at the regional scale, the overall uncertainties were reduced to 20 and 48% for enteric fermentation and manure management, respectively, and assuming that parameters were uncorrelated at the animal subcategory scale reduced uncertainties to 13 and 41% for enteric fermentation and manure management, respectively. When the uncertainty is assigned at the most disaggregated level, even doubling the uncertainty of key parameters such as Y m and Cfi, only increased the national uncertainties to 22 and 52% for enteric fermentation and manure management, respectively. The current analysis demonstrated the importance of obtaining parameters specific to regions and animal subcategories in order to estimate GHG emissions more accurately and to reduce the uncertainties in agricultural GHG inventories. It also showed that assumptions made in the calculation of uncertainties can have a large influence on the uncertainty estimates. © Her Majesty theQueen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agr-Food Canada, 2011.

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