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Mapping the path to climate resilience


“We just know it’s the right thing for our customers, and since I’ve been doing risk management for years, it’s basic management,” says Shannon Carroll, AT&T’s director of environmental sustainability. “If there are anyone who indicates that something is going to happen in the future, it is our responsibility to be prepared for it.”

Globally, leaders in government, business and academia see the need. World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2021 it names extreme weather as one of the most serious hazards of the next decade as a result of climate change and man-made environmental damage. When referring to the risks with the highest impact, the surveys listed the failure of climate action and other environmental risks only in the secondary level of infectious diseases.

AT&T is taking action Climate Resilience Project, using spatial data analysis and location information on how stronger storms can affect infrastructure, such as cell towers and the ability of telecommunications to serve customers. “Spatial analysis is this way of going beyond what we see visually,” explains Lauren Bennett, head of spatial analysis and data science at Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Esri. “It goes beyond a data-based approach and much more to a knowledge-oriented approach.”

To better understand its weakness, AT&T partnered with the Argonne National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy. Their joint mission was to identify risks to the company’s infrastructure and real estate based on historical weather and forecast models. Laboratory company asset data and climate data were included in a GIS, which can cover volumes of different information in the context of location, display and analysis. The output of all this multi-information is called location intelligence.

“When we talk about GIS,” says Jay Theodore, Esri’s chief technology officer, “we’re able to expand on a global scale to solve global problems, but we also shrink and bring a magnifying glass to something close and examine that as well.”

AT&T has plans for the future today

“Everyone needs a plan for climate change,” Carroll says. The AT&T plan is based on advanced spatial analysis of infrastructure to see how devastating storms and other phenomena caused by climate change will affect the United States. Eventually, businesses will be able to predict where and to what extent climate events may affect customers. AT&T understands that without a resilient network, the broadband connectivity needed to close the digital divide is also at stake. “Our top priority is to ensure we have a network that will serve our customers 20 to 30 years from now,” says Carroll.

The basis of AT&T’s GIS is a map that identifies the locations of the company’s offices and stores, cell towers and servers, storage facilities, underground and underground cables, and channels, and other infrastructure. Layered on the map is an analysis of climate change data commissioned by AT&T to Argonne. Argonne and AT&T co-created the Climate Change Analysis Tool to predict the frequency, extent, and location of floods, high-speed winds, fires, and droughts in the near future.

Location intelligence visualizes climate-related risks to AT&T’s infrastructure based on contextual information and science-based knowledge. Without the spatial correlation that GIS has with Argonne’s corporate climate analysis map, AT&T would have a mix of data that is difficult to interpret, broken down into different spreadsheets and databases – a total of more than 500 billion text pages. As Theodore explained, “If you want the whole picture, if you want to make the right decisions, you have to bring the place.”

For example, as a pilot, the AT&T and Argonne teams used the Climate Change Analysis Tool to study the regions of the southeastern United States that can be affected by floods and high winds. “Getting the best climate data available from Argonne National Lab and then superimposing it on a GIS to visualize this is inherently very exciting,” says Carroll. With an extraordinary level of detail, managers can determine how they can affect infrastructure in the four states (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida), for example, in the wake of a 50-year storm event in the coming decades. “Not all of them [asset] it has the same risk, even if they are next to each other, “Carroll noted. This assessment can be helpful in achieving more detailed planning, such as allocating resources to relocate, remodel, or strengthen potentially damaged infrastructure.

The key principles of the telecommunications sustainability effort are a tactic that many companies avoid, data sharing. AT&T teams working on climate risk analysis decided to make their data available to everyone. Access was made known through press releases and social media channels, encouraging people and groups to download. “When it comes to building climate resistance, you don’t compete. You collaborate here, “Carroll says.” We encourage everyone to use this data because we don’t do anything good if we are resilient, but not the rest of our value chain. ”

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