AUSTRALIA, NOVEMBER 29: For several decades, the scientific community has sounded the alarm about the potential impacts of climate change. However, despite the warnings, the repercussions are becoming evident in the damage inflicted on societies and the critical infrastructure upon which we rely.
The current challenge lies in our reliance on outdated assumptions in the design and building of infrastructure, say energy transition experts at Partners in Performance.
To address this, a paradigm shift is needed in the way essential systems are planned and fortified against the unpredictable challenges posed by increasingly volatile and extreme weather events. The urgency of this shift becomes apparent when considering the five key drivers that according to Rob Fowler, Partner, Energy Transition at Partners in Performance, underscore the need for a new approach:
The pace of planetary change is surpassing expectations - Recent data and modelling efforts reveal an unprecedented amount of energy in our oceans and atmosphere. This surge has profound implications, necessitating a reevaluation of our existing strategies.
The cryosphere remains poorly understood, particularly the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets - these ice sheets and glaciers are critical factors influencing material impacts such as sea-level rise and ocean currents. Recent high surface temperatures in these regions highlight the urgency of gaining a better understanding of their behaviour in the face of rapid climate change.
The consequences of unbridled human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are manifesting in extreme weather events - from deluges of rain to devastating floods and crop-destroying heat waves, our climate systems are responding with unprecedented intensity, posing a direct threat to our land-based infrastructure.
Communities are ill-prepared to cope with the challenges posed by extreme weather events, even the well-capitalised and technologically advanced - the fragility of infrastructure is underscored by the vulnerability of the insurance industry, serving as a warning signal for assets, loans, and community sustainability. The inability to secure insurance jeopardises mortgages and other investments susceptible to the ravages of extreme weather. Eventually, rebuilding becomes impossible.
We need to rethink how we are deploying new infrastructure and how we might strengthen our existing infrastructure in the face of very different core assumptions - existing core assumptions no longer align with the unpredictable weather patterns we are witnessing. When constructing roads or bridges, historical weather data traditionally guided planning. However, with the emergence of climate unpredictability, we must reconsider how we design and implement infrastructure, looking at the future, rather than the past.
“At Partners in Performance, we collaborate with major infrastructure providers in Australia to assess the resilience of their assets, systems, supply chains and redundancies. Our focus has been on understanding vulnerabilities and determining where investments should be made to enhance resilience amid changing core assumptions, “ says Rob.
A current example of how these vulnerabilities can be fixed is the Fitzroy River Bridge upgrade in the far north of Western Australia. This critical transport corridor was wiped out in January 2023 by extreme weather, forcing heavy freight to add thousands of kilometres to go around. The new bridge will open in a couple of weeks and has been designed to be six times stronger and 100 metres longer than the old one.
Partners in Performance collaboration with a major rail operator provided valuable insights into how transport access could be maintained in the face of unexpected extreme weather. This includes pre-planning for rapid reaction to reduce down time and locating essential supplies close to where vulnerabilities are evident.
“All very doable, if the organisation prioritises and invests in that resilience,” adds Rob.
“Forward-looking approach is imperative.
“As the impacts of climate change intensify, businesses must adopt a forward-looking approach to comprehend vulnerabilities before they are exposed by unpredictable events. This proactive stance is crucial for companies and their supply chains to navigate the challenges posed by an energised climate, “ says Rob.
This week the Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai marks the culmination of the annual climate change negotiations. While international agreements can provide a framework for progress, the onus lies on the private sector to translate these agreements into tangible outcomes in the real economy.
Governments around the world are wrestling with the reality of infrastructure damage from extreme weather. This damage will only increase as we move closer to climate tipping points and even more energy is added to our atmosphere, oceans and cryosphere.
“New assumptions for models are required at the most basic levels of infrastructure, including design, construction and infrastructure strengthening. There is no time to waste, “ says Rob.
About Partners in Performance
Partners in Performance is an agile, fast growing international management consultancy; a leading global player in driving operational excellence for complex organisations. By working as a true partner with clients, Partners in Performance enables lasting change in organisations, delivering both commercial impact and inspiring people to transform their behaviours. For more information visit pip.global.