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Wireless, Infrastructure and Climate Change

I have just been appointed to a joint government/engineering profession committee looking into ways in which UK  infrastructure can be adapted to be resilient against the effects of climate change. “Infrastructure” here includes energy, telecommunications, transport and water systems.

This is part of a major governmental programme which aims “to identify and examine strategic solutions to improve the long-term resilience of new and existing infrastructure in the energy, telecommunications, transport and water sectors to future climate change impacts.” It is run in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering‘s  Engineering the Future group.  My role is to advise on issues related to radio propagation in the broadest sense.

Of course, we all hope that the impacts of climate change can be minimised by appropriate and prompt action. But it’s exceedingly unlikely that the impacts can be avoided entirely, so it’s also important to plan for the future and ensure that any avoidable impacts are taken into account. Wireless infrastructure has at least the potential to be resilient across a range of situations if it’s designed with these in mind – and it isn’t at the moment. Perhaps more relevant, wireless technology can be used to monitor the status of many other systems and to control and adapt their behaviour accordingly. One example might be the use of wireless mesh networks which can ‘self heal’ by rerouting links to adapt to the loss of any individual unit(s).

This promises to be an interesting – and potentially worthwhile – appointment. I’ll update when outcomes are made public.


PS – The map above shows central estimates of temperature change in °C from the 1961-1990 baseline in the 2080s, for a  “medium emissions scenario”. From Defra’s UK Climate Change report, 2009.

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