How Climatiq handles data quality

While the emission factors provided by Climatiq are calculated by government agencies and top climate scientists, the occasional error is still detected by our science and data team. That means that some emission factors these bodies publish are inaccurate, wrong, or problematic in some way.

When Climatiq, or its users (that's you!) notice these mistakes we take one of several actions:

  • If the emission factor is wrong enough to be unusable we often decide to not include it into the API, so you won't even see it (although you will be able to see it in the underlying OEFDB).
  • If we deem the emission factor isn't unusable or misleading, we include it in the API, but describe any issues in the data_quality_flags parameter that is returned in a variety of endpoints. This parameter returns a list of data quality flags. In addition to any flags, details of the issue will be included in the description field of the emission factor, which you can retrieve when searching emission factors.
  • The decision between these two approaches is made by carefully weighing up the potential impact of the application of an erroneous factor, the importance of adhering to the source data provided, and an assessment of how best to inform users of the issue.

An example of a response after performing an estimate with an emission factor that has data quality issues could look like this:

"co2e": 0.00262223427,
"co2e_unit": "kg",
"co2e_calculation_method": "ar5",
"co2e_calculation_origin": "source",
"emission_factor": {
"name": "Domestic air freight - without RF effect",
"activity_id": "freight_flight-route_type_domestic-distance_na-weight_na-rf_excluded",
"uuid": "94634b2f-c8e1-460c-b73f-236ce32af15a",
"id": "freight_flight-route_type_domestic-distance_na-weight_na-rf_excluded",
"access_type": "public",
"source": "GHG Protocol",
"year": "2021",
"region": "GB",
"category": "Air Freight",
"lca_activity": "fuel_combustion",
// This list is not empty! That means there are data quality issues with this emission factor
"data_quality_flags": ["erroneous_calculation"]
"constituent_gases": {
"co2e_total": 0.00262223427,
"co2e_other": null,
"co2": 0.0026156100000000004,
"ch4": 2.34e-9,
"n2o": 2.475e-8

The data_quality_flags attribute describes that there's something you should be mindful of when using this emission factor. If data_quality_flags is empty, it means that Climatiq has not detected any issues with the emission factor.

You can specify which data quality flags are acceptable for your use-case, via the allowed_data_quality_flags parameter. Most endpoints accept a list of data quality flags. Any emission factor that contains data quality flags not in the list you have provided, will not be used.

E.g. if you provide allowed_data_quality_flags=["erroneous_calculation", "partial_factor"] in the /estimate endpoint, an emission factor with partial_factor could be chosen, as partial_factor is in the allowed list. However, one with ["notable_methodological_variance", "erroneous_calculation"] would not be, as notable_methodological_variance is not in the list of allowed data quality flags.

The table below shows the different data quality flags, and whether endpoints allow their use by default or not.

The default data quality flags allowed exist for backward-compatibility reasons, and we expect them to change in the future. You should make a judgement call whether those are acceptable for your use-case.

Climatiq does not currently consider additions of Data Quality Flags as a breaking change. If we discover issues with existing emission factors we might add data quality flags in minor releases.

If you need more tools to work with data quality, or you've found an emission factor that seems off, we'd love to hear from you.