Scientists, engineers, doctors protest the climate emergency

Scientists captured global attention with dire climate warnings in November when the mainstream media amplified their message contained in an article published in the academic  journal BioScience.  The article itself is clear and direct, beginning with:

“Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”

On the issue of The Economy, the article states: “Excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be quickly curtailed to maintain long-term sustainability of the biosphere. We need a carbon-free economy that explicitly addresses human dependence on the biosphere and policies that guide economic decisions accordingly. Our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality.”

The Alliance of World Scientists invites scientists from around the world to sign on to the message. Summaries about the warnings appeared in The Guardian here  and in Common DreamsWarning of ‘Untold Human Suffering,’ Over 11,000 Scientists From Around the World Declare Climate Emergency” .   A Canadian viewpoint  appears in an article in the  Edmonton edition of the Toronto Star ,“5 Alberta scientists tell us why they joined 11,000 scientific colleagues in declaring a climate emergency” .

Engineers:

Like the scientists, other professionals recently spoke up about their “moral obligation” to do what they can to fight the climate emergency.  “Leading Australian engineers turn their backs on new fossil fuel projects” in The Guardian reports: “About 1,000 Australian engineers and 90 organisations – including large firms and respected industry figures who have worked with fossil fuel companies – have signed a declaration to “evaluate all new projects against the environmental necessity to mitigate climate change”.  The article focuses on  a new group, Australian Engineers Declare  , which issued an Open Letter in September 2019,  acknowledging that their professional organization, Engineers Australia, has a strong policy regarding climate change, but calling for faster action to address climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.  Engineers Declare states that engineers are connected to 65% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that “engineering teams have a responsibility to actively support the transition of our economy towards a low carbon future. This begins with honestly and loudly declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency…we commit to strengthening our work practices to create systems, infrastructure, technology and products that have a positive impact on the world around us.” The declaration continues to list specific actions, including: “Learn from and collaborate with First Nations to adopt work practices that are respectful, culturally sensitive and regenerative.”

Physicians:

doctors DXR-logo-webOn November 1, the editor-in-chief of The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious  medical journals which has published a Countdown Report on Climate Change and Health since 2016.  As reported in “Protesting climate change is a doctor’s duty” ,  the most recent remarks were made in a video  which calls for health professionals to engage in nonviolent social protest to address climate change. The video cites the British professional standard, Duties of a Doctor, and lauds  Doctors for Extinction Rebellion , four of whom have been arrested in London. The website of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion chronicles recent activities including that on October 17th 2019, the Royal College of Physicians committed to Divest from Fossil Fuels.

Architects, planners, and engineers working for climate change mitigation and adaptation

low carbon resilience coverA joint statement, “Advancing Integrated Climate Action”  was released in Fall 2018 by the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects , Canadian Institute of Planners , Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association, acknowledging their ethical and civic responsibilities to address climate change issues, undertaking to improve professional development, and calling on all levels of government and Indigenous leaders to  show meaningful leadership in “advocating for integrated climate action and upholding commitments in the Paris Agreement.”  The 3-page Joint Statement, which includes much more,  is here.

What lies behind this statement? A team of researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, in cooperation with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) in Victoria, surveyed and interviewed planning professionals in British Columbia, and provincial and national professional associations on the issue of “low carbon resilience (LCR)”. The final report of their research,  Low Carbon Resilience: Best Practices for Professionals – Final Report   , was released in December 2018, providing case studies, tools and resources. The report includes a conceptual model of Low Carbon Resilience, as well as  best practices case studies of how LCR can be mainstreamed – for example,  local government planning in the City of Hamburg, Germany ; the British Columbia Energy Step Code ;  and the construction and operation of a major health facility, the Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christie Texas . The report also addresses the needs and possibilities for training and continuing professional development, and describes the database of key LCR-related tools and resources which is under construction.

An earlier report,  Professionals’ Best Practices for Low Carbon Resilience Summary of Phase One Engagement of Professionals and Professional Associations and Proposed Research Agenda summarizes the responses regarding individual attitudes and the role of professional associations .  The report identified “siloed thinking among professions” as a barrier to climate change action – leading, for example, to a lack of awareness of  the interconnections between zoning requirements, agricultural uses, biodiversity and infrastructure engineering in decisions about development and infrastructure planning.

The rationale behind the research:  “This project focused on the key role professionals play as change agents in climate action, and what is needed for all sectors to advance uptake of LCR-based practices. Communities and businesses rely on professional planners, engineers, developers, lawyers, and other experts for guidance, design, development, implementation, operations, maintenance and replacement of all aspects of society’s systems. Professionals are seminal in supporting and supplementing capacity at the local scale, where climate change impacts are felt most prominently, and where the greatest burden of response typically resides. It is therefore urgent that professionals are equipped to help local governments think through cost-effective plans that transcend outdated planning.”

It should be noted that Canadian professional engineers are an important part of this system, and  have long addressed their professional role related to climate change.  Engineers Canada’s  most recent Policy Statement on Climate Change details that history, sets out their position and makes recommendations for government.  In May 2018, Engineers Canada issued comprehensive guidelines for standards, practice and professional development in  National Guideline: Principles of Climate Adaptation and Mitigation for Engineers.

Canadian Engineers Lead International Climate Change Initiatives for the profession

Engineers Canada, the national professional association, has led the Engineering and the Environment Committee of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations since 2007, ending in December 2015 . Under its strong leadership, WFEO , which represents 20 million engineers in 90 countries, adopted a Model Code of Practice: Principles of Climate Change Adaptation for Engineers ,   modelled on Canada’s national Code, adopted in 2014. Leadership of the Committee now passes to the Institution of Civil Engineers, of the U.K., but the momentum seems to be established, according to the November 2015 Committee Newsletter,  which offers an impressive overview of the actions and aspirations of the engineering profession. Stated goals include “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all…Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all;… Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation;… Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts .” And in its Summit Statement  from Paris in December, “COP-21 Engineers Climate Change Summit: Turning Words Into Action – A Sectoral Approach”, the organization focused on the sectors of Agriculture and Food Security, Infrastructure and Urbanization, and Energy and Transport, and pledged, amongst other actions, to undertake climate risk assessments as part of normal practice, and include social, economic and environmental impacts in their considerations.

Canada Ranks #1 Outside the U.S. for LEED Projects; A New Guide for Engineers Recognizes the Impact of Sustainability Requirements

Canada was ranked first for LEED® installations, of all countries outside the U.S., in a list compiled by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The list is intended to demonstrate the global reach of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) movement – a green building certification system that provides third-party verification of the features, design, construction, maintenance, operation and effectiveness of green buildings.

According to the USGBC, Canada has 17.74 million GSM of LEED-certified space, and in total, it has 4,068 LEED-certified and -registered projects representing 58.66 million GSM. A related report, LEED in Motion: Canada, details all LEED activity in Canada, and features a list of the cities in Canada that have incorporated LEED into their local building codes, as well as provincial and federal green building requirements. It states that there are 3,651 people in Canada who hold LEED credentials.

For Canadian consulting engineers dealing with infrastructure projects, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada (ACEC) recently released Sustainable Development for Canadian Consulting Engineers. It states: “It is clear that sustainable development will increasingly drive the project requirements of clients of the consulting engineering industry in Canada. The industry needs to take sustainability issues seriously …” The report identifies systems currently in use for sustainability measurement on infrastructure projects in the U.S., U.K., France and Australia , and considers their possible application for Canada. The report acknowledges the importance of the existing PIEVC Engineering Protocol for evaluating the impact of climate change on infrastructure

LINKS:

LEED in Motion: Canada is available at http://www.usgbc.org/sites/default/files/LEED_In_Motion_Canada_0.pdf ,with the press release re the List of LEED countries at http://www.cagbc.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=News_and_Media_Room&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=16357
Sustainable Development for Canadian Consulting Engineers is at http://www.acec.ca/source/2014/SourceExpress/sustainability/PDF/SustainabilityEng.pdf

B.C. Engineers Recognize Professional Challenges of Climate Change

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) has published a position paper which asserts that the sector’s professional standards and duty to protect public safety now imply a need to consider climate change as part of engineering and geosciences practice. A Changing Climate in British Columbia: Evolving Responsibilities for APEGBC and APEGBC Registrants states that engineers and geoscientists in particular face new professional challenges in light of uncertainty surrounding the climatic future. Fulfilling the professional standards outlined in the Engineers and Geoscientists Act has become more complicated, as project planning and providing advice to decision makers now must account for potential extreme weather events or unprecedented ongoing climatic stresses which may impact long-term safety and resilience. Some engineers are already being asked to consider climate change by their employers and clients, as they were during the development of legislated flood assessments in B.C.

In recognition of the gaps in current knowledge, training, and professional codes, APEGBC states it will implement professional development opportunities, update training procedures and codes, and ensure improved access to sound climate change data along with recommendations about its appropriate use. Entirely new professional guidelines may eventually be introduced. In the position paper, APEGBC instructs its registrants to remain informed and states that engineers and geoscientists are uniquely positioned, given their technical expertise, to help navigate the process of adaptation and building resilient communities.
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LINKS
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A Changing Climate in British Columbia: Evolving responsibilities for APEGBC and APEGBC Registrants is available at: https://apeg.bc.ca/News/News-Releases/APEGBC-Releases-Climate-Change-Position-Paper
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“Engineers Leading the Way on Climate Change” Blog post at the West Coast Environmental Law website at: http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/engineers-leading-way-climate-change
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