On science, engineering, consultants and climate change

One of the strands of my research is to study the impact of climate change on plant and tree health. But this problem goes much wider. There are a lot of commodities that are heavily at risk due to climate change. Whether an individual, a government agency, a start-up or a large company, we must adapt to the changes. If possible, we might also take action to slow down or even reverse climate change. 

But how do we know what, where and when to act? Or even whether it is right to act at all? I argue that we need specialised interdisciplinary teams to provide advice, working closely with those affected – companies, governmental organisations, communities and individuals.

Many companies are either creating an in-house team to focus on sustainability or hiring consultants such as modelling, engineering or environmental consultants to provide assistance. Those with statistical, mathematical and computing skills are becoming significantly more and more sought-after, and it’s easy to see why and how they benefit organisations. 

For example, getting a handle on the company’s carbon footprint is important to fighting climate change. It provides insight into the biggest climate risks to the business and helps identify the most effective greenhouse gas reduction opportunities. One of the biggest benefits (and reasons) for large companies is to opt for hiring engineering and science consultants with skills in statistics, mathematical or computing modelling, such as finite-element analysis. Calculating your company’s carbon footprint is an important first step toward carbon neutrality. It provides insight into where emissions most likely occur and helps to develop a sustainable reduction strategy.

Identifying potential vulnerabilities and increasing resilience is also very important, and some cities are even taking steps to build resilience to climate change. Investing in urban trees is one way to do this, but we need to do it carefully. 

Not only major cities but large companies are putting a stronger focus on this as well, and again they need engineering and environment consultants. These actions include open space planning, building requirements, and district energy. They also include building retrofits, energy efficiency upgrades, and water conservation measures. Hiring a consultancy firm will allow them to help calculate vulnerability by evaluating the likelihood of a hazardous event.

Some firms may outsource pollution-intensive production processes to reduce their direct emissions. This strategy may be driven by the firm’s desire to attract more investors or customers. Not something I advise, but there might be scope for moving industry around to minimise the environmental impact, and again consulting scientists and engineers is the essential factor – as is involving economists and social scientists!

Using advanced simulation tools, designers and engineers can reduce the use of finite energy sources to fight climate change. These tools can also be used to optimise processes and improve product designs. 

As scientists and engineers, we increasingly rely on computers in all the analysis steps. Computer-aided engineering (CAE) is an essential part of contemporary vehicle development processes. CAE can optimise processes, select designs, and validate products. It can also be used to validate designs before hardware is available and to simulate different designs to select the best one for production or implementation. 

Flu, RSV and Covid – Week 47 updates

TL&DR: Flu and RSV continue to be a threat, with an increasing number of cases and hospitalisation. Covid was still in decline last week, but that has now changed, and some age groups see an increase. Note this is week 47 data released in week 48.

Flu cases have been rising since late summer, with % positive samples higher than in typical years. We might not yet see the rapid rise that was seen around that time of the year in 2019 and a bit later in 2018, but the numbers in week 47 can be revised upwards next week.

RSV is also on the rise, both in terms of positivity, hospital admission rate and hospital numbers. The hospitalisation rate almost exactly follows the 2019-20 curve. The positivity in 0-4 years age class continues to rise rapidly.

Covid positivity was still declining last week (week 47) but the rate shows some signs of slowing down (the last point is usually revised upwards in the following week). The number of cases is clearly levelling off.

The numbers have already started going up as seen in the most recent data, compared here between England and Scotland. Both 0-19 years old and 45-64 see higher numbers this week (week 48) than in week 47. Perhaps too early yet to call a start of the new wave, but we are definitely not going down anymore.

COVID, flu, RSV – week 46 update

As the UKHSA data are out today, here is a quick update.

TL&DR: The main respiratory diseases (Covid, flu, RSV) are a bit quiet at the moment. It might be that this trend will continue, but more likely, they will pick up again as more wintery weather arrives.

Covid-19

The numbers are still going down, although the decline is slowing down.

A more detailed analysis shows that in some age categories (children and 75+), we are already getting increases. It remains to be seen whether it is a harbinger of a larger winter wave or a wiggle.

Seasonal influenza

Not much change, really – the numbers are still high compared to pre-pandemic years for this time of the season. But, the number of cases and positivity seem to slow down a bit.

RSV

Hospitalisation continues its downward trend – is it just a blip, or will it keep going down? The 0-4 year olds positivity – which I added to both plots – is still very high; the worrying trend is a rapid increase in the 5-14 positivity (not shown here).