The future of climate data science.

Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting
and Control System

Supporting government and citizens through open source, science-based analysis of climate change industrial emissions data.

Expertise

Data Science, Data Visualization, Open Source Development

Deliverables

Data Architecture, User research, UI/UX, Devops

Technologies

Postgres, Javascript Clojure

BC: Leading by example

British Columbia has long been a leader in the global fight against climate change, with a track record of evidence-based policy for carbon pricing, emissions offsets, clean energy vehicles and industrial emitters.

In 2018, the Government of British Columbia launched the CleanBC program, laying out a roadmap for achieving ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets of 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 80% by 2050. CleanBC is an integral part of the province’s economic plan, promoting a robust, sustainable economy that creates jobs and opportunities, while also improving the lives of all of its citizens now and into the future.

Our project sponsor, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy – Climate Action Secretariat (CAS), is responsible for the research, analysis, development, and implementation of climate change-related programs, policies, and legislation. CAS coordinates climate action activities across Government and with stakeholders to propel change towards achieving BC’s GHG emission reduction targets.

With the announcement of CleanBC it became obvious that data analysis capabilities needed to evolve to match the growing policy requirements. Enter the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control System project, or GGIRCS for short.

The project had an ambitious mandate: to dramatically improve the data collection and analysis of GHGs emitted by industries in BC. This would enable novel policy development and provide value to both policymakers and citizens of BC.

Putting impact at the center of what we do

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, full of very challenging and complex problems; exactly the type our curious, science-minded team loves to tackle.

We knew this project entailed meaningful data science and product development that, if done right, could materially help the fight against climate change. The world is moving towards a low-carbon future, and we jumped at the opportunity to work alongside like-minded people from the government, industry, and community and contribute to realizing that future.

Getting to know the problem

GHG emissions reporting for large industrial operations has been required in BC since 2010, and this data has been stored in legacy systems used by the government. To get to the heart of the requirements we analyzed these legacy systems using data science techniques and created documentation to better understand data structures and relations. Public servants would pull the data, often into spreadsheets, and use it to support important analysis, policymaking, and public reporting. We engaged these users in a series of interviews and asked them to write down their struggles and ideas on how we could make their work easier.

We learned that analysts required the ability to “slice and dice” the data in whichever way they wanted. They also desired the ability to easily collaborate with other analysts and policymakers. We also learned from policymakers that the system needed to provide the ability to create data dashboards with uses ranging from instant insights to supporting decisions at the highest levels of the provincial government.

An Agile approach

We worked closely with the client to produce working software with a transparent vision. Our high-performing Agile team followed an iterative, collaborative approach. Tools such as information flow diagrams helped simplify complex problem spaces. Interactive UI mock-ups (wireframes) facilitated users’ understanding of how proposed designs would meet business needs.  This allowed our team to

  • Maximize business value delivered to client.
  • Openly share the story and get user feedback on a continuous basis
  • Refine the solution with the help of our users.
  • Show value early and often and deliver incrementally and iteratively.

Plan

Design

Develop

Launch

Repeat

Powering the future of climate science

Coupling our agile approach with deep climate science paid in volumes. One of the coolest outcomes has been seeing these tools empower real-time work on important solutions to public policy problems.

Months to minutes analysis

Analysis that used to take multiple people months to compile can now be done in minutes if not seconds. Integrating with additional data sources, such as the CleanBC Industrial Incentives Program (CIIP) and BCOrgbook provide a robust analysis framework across programs.

Dashboards for collaboration

People all across government can view and collaborate on dashboards and embed them in presentations and media as needed. Real-time dashboards provide up-to-date information at the press of a button.

Data visualization at fingertips

The new system can create useful charts and graphs in real-time, replacing dense spreadsheets, and providing a highly usable alternative for all levels of the government.

Greater data visibility

Our data scientists created links between data that were previously difficult to extract or access enabling cross-sector analysis, with a user experience designed to accommodate complex, interconnected data from a variety of industrial operations, such as pulp and paper mills, natural gas operations and refineries, and large mines.

The end product embodies values that are deeply important to digitally savvy government – accountability, user participation, and cross-sector innovation. It empowers evidence-based policy decision making and facilitates comprehensive solutions to complex public policy problems.