Uncertainty Surrounding Location, Timing, Magnitude of Climate Change Creates Dilemma for Engineers

June 18, 2015

Balancing future needs for engineered infrastructure with the risks posed by the effects of climate change on long-term engineering projects is a dilemma for civil engineers according to a new publication from ASCE’s Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate (CACC).

ClimateChangePaperRecommendations2In Adapting Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Practice to a Changing Climate, a document that is free for members to download, the authors present an in-depth discussion of the potential significance of climate change to engineering practice. Although considerable evidence indicates that the climate is changing, significant uncertainty exists regarding the location, timing, and magnitude of this change over the lifetime of infrastructure. This uncertainty must be addressed to ensure that responsible civil engineering practice adapts to a changing climate.

Ted Vinson, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, CACC chairman, said, “The gap between climate science and engineering practice somehow must be bridged. This report identifies the technical requirements and civil engineering challenges raised by adaptation to a changing climate, and it offers decision criteria and potential solution pathways to address the impacts. Furthermore, the needs, approaches, and changes in practice presented in this document are applicable not only to civil engineering but also to many other engineering disciplines.”

Available to members as a free download through the ASCE Library, Adapting Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Practice to a Changing Climate includes a review of climate science for engineering practice, and addresses the incorporation of climate science into engineering practice; civil engineering sectors that might be affected by climate change; and the need for research, development, and demonstration projects. The book ends with a summary, conclusions, and recommendations. Three appendices illustrate differing engineering approaches toward assessing or preparing for climate change.

According to Vinson, “Practitioners, researchers, educators, and students of civil engineering, as well as government officials and allied professionals, will be fascinated by this discussion of the trade-offs between the expenses of increasing system reliability and the potential costs and consequences of failure to future generations.”

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