How We Measure Greenhouse Gas Emissions

When we talk about Climate Change we usually talk about the need to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). Each year in the region, 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gases are released. Metro Vancouver wants to reduce these emissions by 80 per cent by the year 2050.

But, how do you measure 15 million tonnes of GHGs??
Well, turns out you don’t – they’re calculated.

Greenhouse gases are created when fuels are burned. If you know how much fuel is being burned you can figure out how many GHGs are being created. So, the data nerds and engineers at Metro Vancouver gather fuel consumption data from a whole bunch of sources, add in some chemical formulas, and then mass of emissions can be estimated.

GHG calculation

For things that move around like the family car, ships, aircraft, trains, heavy duty trucks, bulldozers and tractors, federal agencies like Transport Canada and provincial agencies like ICBC, can tell us how many of these vehicles there are in the region. Combine that with fuel consumption data and you can come up with a good idea of total emissions.

GHGs federal agencies

So that makes up about a half of the greenhouse gases – of which about 30 per cent is from cars and trucks. Next, coming in at about 25 per cent are things that stay put: namely, buildings.
For example, rooftop vents release CO2 in the process of heating and cooling buildings. Natural gas provider FortisBC provides the information needed for most of these calculations. Industrial facilities also track their fuel use and report to Metro Vancouver. And then those data nerds go to work to calculate the GHGs emitted by this sector.

Data is also collected on a range of other emission contributors, like cement production, petroleum refining, landfilling, and agriculture. There is a bit more fine tuning to meet United Nations International Climate Change protocols, but generally, that’s how we measure greenhouse gas emissions.

Find out more on how we plan to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets

Visit our video gallery for more stories about air quality and climate change. 

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