Engineering consultancy, Ramboll, explains the importance of building climate resilience planning into businesses to prepare for extreme weather events.
Often we think of extreme weather events as monsoons or tornadoes and therefore something that the UK simply doesn’t have to worry about. However, recent weather events have had a significant impact on UK infrastructure, businesses and supply chains. Building climate resilience planning into businesses, both big and small, is crucial, as the accumulated cost can be huge, costing the UK economy hundreds of thousands.
Here, Bram Miller, Technical Director at Ramboll, and the company’s Principal Consultant, Sarah Winne, provide more insight into climate resilience and why it’s important for UK businesses to properly assess the risks posed by climate events.
A year of extremes
2018 was a year of extreme weather. We are in the midst of a prolonged spell of very hot weather, which is on the back of a long dry spell. This follows some of the heaviest snowfalls in many years, much later in the year than we would normally expect. The costs that events like these have on businesses are clear with some economic analysts estimating that this winter’s ‘beast from the east’ was likely the most costly weather event since 2010, according to The Guardian.
Those who are operating businesses, sites and equipment of all types must identify and manage the significant risks posed by extreme weather. For example, hot weather can be a problem for the welfare and safety of staff and customers, can reduce the efficiencies of plant and machinery or even render testing procedures as invalid. Heavy rainfall, on the other hand, can cause flooding, with clear dangers to people, property and equipment.
It is essential that processes and facilities are designed to be resilient and operate within realistic climatic parameters, whilst noting that the climate is changing and these parameters are often becoming more extreme. For example, in the UK we are already experiencing hotter, drier summers and more intense rainfall throughout the year, and these trends are predicted to carry on. Other parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, are recording very significant changes in their climate, with reliable seasons a thing of the past.
Those designing and operating engineering equipment and facilities need to ensure they are not caught out by current and future extreme weather, particularly taking account of design life. Any design life beyond about twenty years definitely warrants consideration of future as well as current conditions. Open-source advice is available from sources such as the UK Climate Projections website and The Met Office website to help identify the risks and establish the options to help manage them, whilst companies such as Ramboll offer tailored support to businesses.
It is also worth noting that, for some businesses, extreme weather and climate change may present an opportunity. For example, ever greater awareness and focus on climate might allow the chance to develop climate monitoring solutions. Businesses may also be viewed as early movers on climate change – those that improve their climate resilience and prepare for extreme weather events in advance could have a competitive advantage over others.
Whatever your attitude to climate change, the unseasonable weather in the UK this year clearly shows that this small island does not always live up to its rainy reputation. The case for preparing for more extreme weather is becoming increasingly convincing.