Civil Engineering’s Role in Reducing Risk of Climate Change

American, British and Canadian Engineering Societies Sign Joint Agreement Defining Engineering and Policy Priorities During Triennial Conference—Coastal Engineering: Future Challenges and Risks

Reston, Va.—As leaders of the civil engineering profession gathered in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to discuss the challenges and risks faced by coastal communities worldwide at the 2009 Triennial Conference, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) and the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) jointly signed an agreement on Civil Engineering and Climate Change. Based on the belief that “substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are required to reduce the risk of climate change” and that “the effects of climate change include reduced access to drinking water supplies, increased exposure to flooding and the threat to flood security in large parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America,” the agreement outlines civil engineers’ role in the solution, as well as key engineering and public policy priorities.

“Climate change is posing serious risks to the infrastructure systems that support our global economy, and more importantly, the ability of communities worldwide to prosper and thrive,” said ASCE President D. Wayne Klotz, P.E., D.WRE, F.ASCE. “As civil engineers, it is our duty to assure the performance of those critical systems, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and complying with the principles of sustainable development must play a major role in our efforts to mitigate the risks we face.”

“Developing technologies to mitigate the impacts of climate change is a challenge for all engineers,” said CSCE President Gordon Jin, P.Eng., FCSCE.  “This agreement sends a clear signal to our respective policy makers that civil engineers are at the forefront of this crucial issue, and highlights the need for public policy priorities to address this for the good of our planet and its inhabitants.”

ICE Director General Tom Foulkes said: “This agreement signifies a more strategic approach to combating the impacts of climate change. Infrastructure is the backbone of society and civil engineers have a vital role to play in boosting its resilience in the face of today’s increased environmental risks. We also need to encourage the continued development of innovative, low carbon engineering solutions in the future.”

Civil engineers are central to the success of the infrastructure networks that support our society and global economy. To address the foreseeable climate change impacts on and need for resilience in those networks, design, construction and operation must be changed. To address this crucial issue, the engineering priorities outlined in the agreement focus on two areas, mitigation and adaptation.

Addressing mitigation, the agreement includes a call for leadership from the profession in developing new technologies and materials, as well as a call to incorporate incentives for development and implementation of low or zero-greenhouse gas emitting technologies and cost-effective carbon capture and storage. Addressing adaptation, the agreement also notes that civil engineers must develop and implement tools and policies for risk assessment and modification of existing and new infrastructure systems. To support the implementation of these strategies, the agreement includes commitments to “assist all governments through the development of a low-carbon infrastructure road map setting out key steps up to 2050,” and to “develop guidance documents on engineering vulnerability assessment of civil infrastructure and best engineering practice for adaptation to address those vulnerabilities.”

The agreement also highlights the need for public policy priorities, and outlines a recommendation that, at the national and international level, a binding agreement for global emissions and an equitable process for its long-term achievement be created. That agreement, the three organizations note, should include the establishment of clear and reasonable targets and timeframes that stimulate private investment and encourage early action, as well as encourage action by other countries.

Building on the long-standing relationship between ASCE, CSCE and ICE, the agreement is the outcome of active discussions on climate change initiated by ASCE in Pittsburgh at the Society’s 2008 Annual Civil Engineering Conference. These efforts to engage the global engineering community will continue at the upcoming 2009 World Federation of Engineering Organizations in Kuwait, where addressing climate change and sustainable development will be a major focus of the program.

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About ASCE
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) represents more than 146,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. For more information, visit

About CSCE
Founded in 1887, the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering is a not-for-profit, learned society dedicated to providing civil engineers with opportunities to increase their professional development through continuing education, networking, advocacy, and publications. For more information, visit

About ICE
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) was founded in 1818 to ensure professionalism in civil engineering. It represents 80,000 qualified and student civil engineers in the UK and across the globe. The ICE has long worked with the government of the day to help it to achieve its objectives, and has worked with industry to ensure that construction and civil engineering remain major contributors to the UK economy and UK exports.