Jointly governed by Environment Canada, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and SEMARNAT (Mexico), the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) supports cooperation among the North American governments to address environmental issues of continental concern.
Tasked with helping the CEC develop a next generation web platform on climate change, Open Organize conceived of and built the North American Platform on Climate Pollutants: a unique, API-driven application that pioneers the use of semantic frameworks for air pollutant inventories.
Air pollutant inventories are the essential yardsticks used to measure progress in the fights against air pollution and climate change. Written by scientists inside and outside of government, the inventories measure the total releases of a certain type of pollutant — criteria air contaminants, greenhouse gases, black carbon — within a given timeframe and geography.
The scientists and policymakers who consume inventories need to know that their data is up-to-date and authoritative — and they also need to understand how the methodologies and taxonomies used to estimate and categorize pollution differ from inventory to another.
The CEC and Open Organize authored a three-stage solution to this problem.
First, we designed a semantic dictionary for air pollutant data. For the first time, inventory authors have the ability to tag their documents, and identify the methodologies and taxonomies used in human- and machine-readable formats.
Second, we applied the semantic framework to authoritative greenhouse gas and black carbon inventories produced with the collaboration of Environment Canada, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and SEMARNAT.
Third, we published the application in an online database, the North American Platform on Climate Pollutants, a website that allows researchers to drill-down within inventories explore the relationships between reported data and methodologies and taxonomies used to produce the data.
The end result is not simply a compelling web application, but a new and better way to enhance the comparability of air pollutant datasets.