International Women’s Day is an opportune moment to celebrate the achievements of women, specifically those combating climate change with technology.

Among the inspiring stories is the women-led team of data scientists known as the StaSASticians, winners of the insurance track of the 2023 SAS Hackathon.

No beginner’s luck, just accessible for everyone

With no prior knowledge of SAS® Viya®, the StaSASticians delivered a cloud-based solution for environmental, social and corporate governance risk assessment. Motivated by a desire to provide individuals with tools to inform responsible and sustainable investment decisions, the team built a solution in just a few weeks. This accomplishment underscores the accessibility and user-friendliness of the low-code, no-code platform of Viya. It’s easy for individuals with diverse backgrounds to contribute to complex projects.

"We set out to create innovative solutions that integrate sustainability into financial goals," said team lead Narges Hosseinzadeh, an Illinois Institute of Technology graduate student. "This incredible opportunity empowered us to explore sustainable finance, mitigate risks and positively impact the world."

You can view all the 2023 SAS Hackathon winners here.

Climate insights and the impact on agriculture

Further highlighting the role of women in addressing climate challenges, Dr. Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change at the US Geological Survey, shared insights in an SAS-sponsored series. Burkett narrates the success of a cross-collaboration of scientists in deploying the "Famine Early Warning System Network" to predict crop failure in drought-stricken countries. The work was so successful that it was domestically imported, supporting US agriculture in monitoring water availability.

"As a scientist looking at climate changes, one of my surprises has been things are occurring more rapidly than we had projected," Burkett says. "One of the projections we made 20 years ago was we were going to see an increase in the intensity of storms." Today, those projections feel more and more real.

You can watch the full video here.

AI’s crucial role in climate risk management

In recent years, AI has emerged as a critical tool in managing climate risks. Dr. Lysa Porth, CEO of AIRM Consulting, emphasizes the transformative role of AI and machine learning in the insurance sector. She spoke with SAS about how new data from ground sensors, machines and satellites can be used to provide valuable insights for insurers, moving from raw data to informed decisions.

"The opportunity for the insurance sector is moving from data to insights," Porth explains. "There is a big role here for AI and machine learning."

Visit SAS' Insurance Analytics @ Scale Video Series page to watch the full video.

Addressing the harsh realities of climate change

In 2023, record-breaking temperatures – including the hottest day ever recorded (July 3) – emphasized the urgency of addressing climate change. Organizations grappling with unpredictable weather patterns and escalating natural disasters face challenges in adapting to changing conditions.

Unfortunately, one of the most troubling realities brought about by climate change is the adverse impact on health and mortality for the most vulnerable populations on Earth. A report from the World Health Organization estimates that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths annually brought on by, among other factors, insufficient access to food and clean drinking water. Insurers are just some of the corporate citizens who can bring to bear their data and insights to address these risks.

Understanding climate risk

Climate risk can be broken down into physical, transitional and liability risks. Physical risks include damage caused by increasingly severe weather. Transition risks include gaps created as organizations move toward net zero goals. Liability risks include accountability assumed for contribution to greenhouse gases and climate change through investments.

Regardless of whether an investor or parent company has assumed legal liability, investing in organizations lacking authentic climate policies and practices is equivalent to supporting the damage they do to the environment.

The collective strength in climate action

While addressing climate risk demands a collective effort, individual actions can make an impact, too. Dr. Sou-Cheng Choi, Principal Data Scientist at SAS and Research Associate Professor at Illinois Institute of Technology, encourages the dedication of brilliant minds to tackle climate risk. Recognizing the overwhelming nature of the challenge, Choi realizes the collective strength and openness of the next generation of data scientists. She believes they can make a difference.

"I hope our most brilliant minds dedicate their time to address [climate risk]," said Choi. "I do feel overwhelmed when I think about [climate risk], but luckily, we are not alone. Especially with the next generation of data scientists being so open-minded and concerned about [climate risk]. I believe we can do something about it."

Engage and innovate for a sustainable future

For those looking to engage further and explore the latest in AI, check out SAS Innovate in Las Vegas. Registration is open now and includes a SAS boot camp, where experts will take participants through the use of our cloud-native platform, SAS Viya.

If you are a data scientist or aspiring analytics enthusiast, perhaps you're ready to build your own solution to address the most pressing issues of our time.

Get in on the SAS Hackathon boot camps at SAS Innovate!


About Author

Franklin Manchester

Prior to joining SAS, Franklin held a variety of individual contributor and people leader roles in Property and Casualty Insurance. He began his career as an Associate Agent for Allstate in Boone, NC. In 2005, he joined Nationwide Insurance as a personal lines underwriter. For 17 years at Nationwide, he managed personal lines and commercial lines underwriters, portfolio analysts, sales support teams and sales managers. Additionally, he supported staff operations providing thought leadership, strategy and content for sales executive offices.

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