Chapter 7 – Climate Change
Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia has undertaken several initiatives to explore the impact of climate change on professional engineering and geoscience practice.
Members of Engineers and Geoscientists BC, through the Climate Change Advisory Group, advise Council on these matters on an ongoing basis.
On September 8, 2016 The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) released a position paper on Human-Induced Climate Change
A. APEGBC accepts that there is strong evidence that human activities, in particular activities that emit greenhouse gases, are contributing to global climate change.
B. APEGBC Registrants have the potential to influence greenhouse gas emissions through their professional activities, and are expected to consider the impact of their work on the climate.
Greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate
Scientific evidence shows a global warming trend that has accelerated over the past 100 years. Further, multiple lines of evidence show that emissions of greenhouse gases—in particular carbon dioxide and methane—from human activities are the primary driver of this trend (IPCC 2014). Data from the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration show that nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000 (NOAA 2015). Projections based on global climate models indicate that global temperatures will continue to rise (IPCC 2014). Climate scientists have confidence in the ability of these models to produce credible, quantitative projections of the future climate, because they are based on fundamental physical principles and have consistently been shown to reproduce observed features of the current climate and past climate changes. The scientific community has determined that in order to stabilize the climate, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 40%–70% from current levels by mid-century (IPCC 2014). The Province of British Columbia has legislated targets of 33% reductions by 2020 and 80% reductions by 2050 from a 2007 baseline (Province of BC 2007). The BC Government continues to develop and refine climate change legislation and policies in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, including local governments, professional associations such as APEGBC, and the general public. Significantly, the December 2015 Paris Climate Conference achieved a global framework agreement on climate action, with more than 190 countries recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and that deep reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions will be required.
Engineers and geoscientists can contribute to mitigating human-induced climate change through their professional activities
At its core, climate change mitigation includes actions to reduce the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere, in particular carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels. Mitigation will require moving toward a low-carbon economy and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, where possible. Mitigation can also refer to sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or finding ways to store carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gases) that would otherwise be released. The work of engineers and geoscientists can positively influence how energy and resources are produced and used in their projects, thus helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. APEGBC Registrants work in a wide variety of different roles—as employees, employers, researchers, academics, consultants, and in regulatory and managerial positions—and they often work on teams with other specialists. Although engineers and geoscientists may not be the implementers of strategic decisions that influence energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for the projects they work on, they are encouraged to consider how the impact of climate change may be relevant in their engineering and geoscience analysis and in the recommendations that they provide to their clients on engineering and geoscience issues. These expectations are highlighted in the APEGBC Code of Ethics and the APEGBC Professional Practice Guidelines – Sustainability (V1.1, revised 2016). In many cases, the strong links between renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction mean that there is a potential business case for solutions with lower associated climate impacts, especially when the full project life costs and benefits are accounted for.
CLIMATE CHANGE ADVISORY GROUP
The Climate Change Advisory Group is responsible for advising Council on matters related to climate change and adaptation. This includes recommending appropriate policy development, providing input into practice guideline development and revision, and recommending appropriate responses to requests for association support.
CLIMATE CHANGE INFORMATION PORTAL
The climate change adaptation tools and resources listed in this portal aim to support professionals in incorporating a consideration of climate change into their practice.
ENGINEERS CANADA SURVEY ON CLIMATE CHANGE
In 2007, a national survey on climate change, targeted to infrastructure engineers, was conducted by the Canadian Standards Association on behalf of Engineers Canada. The survey helped determine engineers’ level of knowledge and awareness of the impacts of a changing climate on built infrastructure at the time. In 2012, a follow‐up survey was conducted to understand what changes in attitudes, awareness, and actions have occurred since 2007. The 2012 survey also helps identify what engineers are doing now to adapt infrastructure to the impacts of a changing climate. The survey, conducted between December 2011 and February 2012, was targeted at professional engineers across Canada in five categories of built infrastructure: water, transportation, energy, buildings, and resource extraction/processing.
- For the purposes of this paper, the term “APEGBC Registrants” includes: professional engineers, professional geoscientists, provisional members, licensees, limited licensees, engineers-in-training, and geoscientists-in-training. ↵