Abrupt impacts of climate change: Anticipating surprises

The study from the National Academy of Sciences, "Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises," has some useful advice for how building engineers should advise their clients.

01/08/2014


Okay – okay, I can be a science nerd. I entered undergraduate school wanting to be a marine biologist and left with a degree in philosophy. Go figure. I eventually course-corrected with a masters in architecture. Every so often I run across a study that peaks my interest. The recent publication from the National Academy of Sciences, Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprisesis one of these.

For architects and engineers this is directly related to how we design and our approach to resiliency in the buildings, communities, and cities we deliver to our clients. Things are likely to get funky and could do so quickly.

The study is sponsored by the U.S. intelligence community, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academies. The first paragraph reads, Levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are exceeding levels recorded in the past millions of years, and thus climate is being forced beyond the range of the recent geological era. Lacking concerted action by the world’s nations, it is clear that the future climate will be warmer, sea levels will rise, global rainfall patterns will change, and ecosystems will be altered.

It is worth reading the summary if nothing else. The last paragraph of the section The Way Forward reads; Although there is still much to learn about abrupt climate change and abrupt climate impacts, to willfully ignore the threat of abrupt change could lead to more costs, loss of life, suffering, and environmental degradation. The time is here to be serious about the threat of tipping points so as to better anticipate and prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises.

Just how should we advise our clients?

Is designing to today’s code and zoning sufficient?

What is our role as designers?

A resolution for 2014?



No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Water use efficiency: Diminishing water quality, escalating costs; Lowering building energy use; Power for fire pumps
Building envelope and integration; Manufacturing industrial Q&A; NFPA 99; Testing fire systems
Labs and research facilities: Q&A with the experts; Water heating systems; Smart building integration; 40 Under 40 winners
Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.