The two articles have identified climate change as one of the outstanding challenges to the engineering profession. Natural disasters are linked to Earth’s climate, which has varied significantly over the years. Engineers have failed to fully exploit the knowledge of climate change, understand its impacts and interactions, and incorporate the knowledge in a sustainable system design. For successful planning and design, engineers must be able to assess the risks associated with the occurrence of natural disasters.
Various engineering failures have been caused by climate change challenges. Engineers should therefore learn from the engineering failures of the past and approach this challenge with sensitivity, especially to the complexity of the problem and the possibility for the unforeseen consequences. The Mississippi flood of 1993 and the Kobe earthquake, among other disasters, have necessitated increased creativity in engineering designs.
Engineers need to open up and anticipate scenarios that go beyond the ones prescribed in design codes and regulations. Engineering solutions should be part of disaster control and damage reduction management. This calls for interdisciplinarity, where engineers work together with natural, social and political scientists in order to make informed decisions in planning and design. Performance-based design, in addition to a combination of structural and nonstructural engineering solutions, should be considered.
Climate change is characterized by uncertainties, thus, engineers need to employ and adapt the decision-making lessons under uncertainty, in different domains. Desirable solutions are adaptable and such solutions are accompanied by intelligent monitoring and control. Engineers should therefore relate climate problem to the safety-critical situations that they have handled for many years. From disastrous engineering failures, engineers have learned the importance of adaptively managing an evolving situation and how to manage the risks. This should be the case with respect to climate change.
Barros, A.P., and Evans, J.L. “Designing for Climate Variability.” Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 1997.
Hall, J., and Pidgeon, N. “A systems view of climate change.” Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems, 27(3), 2010:243–253.