Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Climate change report: Implications for engineers

I've just co-authored a report entitled "Climate Change, Sustainable Infrastructure and the Implications for Engineers" - available here. It's for a workshop to be held in January 2014 (originally on 31st October 2013) and hosted by the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy (part of Professional Engineers Ontario).

[UPDATE 10 Feb 2014: notes from the January 2014 workshop are available here]

I've pasted the executive summary below:

  • Climate change is going to have dramatic impact on our societies if we do not do anything to prepare for it now; we could end up locked-into unsustainable infrastructure, processes and practices.
  • The focus of this report is the potential disruption climate change could cause to our infrastructure systems. This means we not only have to reduce our environmental impact (i.e.mitigation activities) but also prepare for climatic and weather changes (i.e. adaptation activities). Our infrastructure systems need to do both.
  • The disruption caused by climate change to our infrastructure systems is complicated by the fact that infrastructure is a social and technical system – or socio-technical system. The transformation of our infrastructure has entailed and will entail social and technical decisions and choices, some of which have and will come into conflict with one another.
  • There is an emerging interest in promoting and developing sustainable infrastructure in order to address these issues; such infrastructure integrates climate change throughout the life-cycle of infrastructure as well as social, political and economic considerations that directly impact on the capacity of infrastructure systems to be adaptable and resilient in a changing climate.
  • Engineers and other professionals are playing a critical role in working out how to integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation activities into infrastructure systems to create this sustainable infrastructure.
  • While engineers are directly involved in the emergence of sustainable infrastructure, it is important to consider the implications of this transition to the engineering profession. This report is meant as a contribution to this discussion. It covers five key implications including  changes to engineering education and continuing professional development, workplace practices, professional liability, codes and standards, and employment opportunities.

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