Speaking before 600 attendees at the Korean Institute of Construction Technology 30th Anniversary International Seminar, 2013 ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto, P.E., P.L.S., D.WRE, F.ASCE, described the potentially serious worldwide impact that climate change could have on water resources, energy production and use, agriculture, forestry, coastal development and resources, flood control, and public infrastructure.
“ASCE, its members, and leaders are ready to develop and recommend prudent adaptation policies as part of our mission to serve the public good,” said DiLoreto.
Invited as keynote speaker at the seminar on June 11 at the KICT headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, DiLoreto emphasized that the climate is changing but there is significant uncertainty regarding its magnitude; that engineering design, plans, and regulations need to be adaptable; and that the goal of the engineering community is to bridge the gap between climate scientists and civil engineering practice.
“Research organizations and agencies,” stressed DiLoreto, “should support the involvement of engineering organizations and researchers with climate and weather scientists in observations and modeling of climate, weather, and extreme events in order to improve their relevance and transparency for use in the planning, design, operation, maintenance, and renewal of the built and natural environment.”
DiLoreto recommended that organizations like ASCE, which are responsible for engineering standards and research, should “study trends in climate and extreme events in cooperation with climate and weather scientists, evaluate the resulting effects on relevant design conditions and extreme events, and consider life-cycle costs and benefits to arrive at a consensus on changes in their specific standards.”
Korean Engineers Express Interest in ASCE’s Report Card
The seminar, whose theme was Construction Technology in the Era of Climate Change, was part of a 5-day presidential visit to South Korea. The visit included a meeting with members of the ASCE Korea Group (ASCE Region 10), the Korean Society of Civil Engineers (KSCE), the KICT, and a tour of the Ipo reservoir, the Paldang Dam, and the Cheonggyecheon, a 5.2 mile, $900 million urban renewal project in downtown Seoul.
At the request of his Korean hosts from the KICT, DiLoreto also gave a second speech June 12, before members of the Korean Institute of Construction Technology Research Center, with whom he shared trends in U.S. infrastructure policy, ASCE’s vision of infrastructure, what the Report Card is, what are its results, and U.S. infrastructure needs by 2020.
As evidence of the importance of investment in infrastructure, DiLoreto described for the audience the recent collapse of a 160-foot span of a 4-lane bridge over the Skagit River, near Mount Vernon, Washington.
“Unfortunately, it can take an event like the recent I-5 bridge collapse in Washington State to drive the point home for the media and the public,” said DiLoreto. “The day this event hit the news, our Report Card had over 1,400 media mentions.”
Why Infrastructure Investment Is Important to America
DiLoreto closed his presentation by explaining how America has thrived because of the high quality of infrastructure in the past.
“A D+ is a grade we cannot accept as a country,” concluded DiLoreto. “We must commit today to make our vision of the future a reality—an American infrastructure system that is the source of our prosperity.
“For the U.S. economy to be the most competitive in the world, we need a first class infrastructure system—transport systems that move people and goods efficiently and at reasonable cost by land, water, and air; transmission systems that deliver reliable, low-cost power from a wide range of energy sources; and water systems that drive industrial processes as well as the daily functions in our homes. Yet today, our infrastructure systems are failing to keep pace with the current and expanding needs, and investment in infrastructure is faltering.
“This means leadership at the federal, state, and local levels of government, by businesses and individuals, to communicate the importance of our nation’s infrastructure, to craft innovative solutions that reflect the diverse needs of the nation, and to make the investments the system needs. By employing strategies to use every dollar more efficiently and by deploying creative solutions to infrastructure development such as public–private partnerships, we can implement the right projects on time at the right price.”