As the bushfire crisis unfolded around Australia, it was clear that climate change had a very real and tangible effect on the blazes and how communities dealt with them. Engineers Australia is calling on the engineering, science, government and industry communities to come together as a first step in finding actionable solutions to the problems.
Along with the bravery of firefighters keeping fires away from doorsteps, communities were also dependant on engineers in the telecommunications, energy and utility sectors to keep vital infrastructure operating as bushfires became ferocious over the holiday period.
Just as engineers play a practical role in getting communities back on their feet, they also have an important contribution to the wider discussion about how to respond to climate change, both to ameliorate the impacts and to find solutions.
To get an engineering perspective at the forefront of the conversation, Engineers Australia will be hosting a series of roundtable discussions for leaders to address engineering responses to climate change for the benefit of our communities.
Invited members of the first roundtable will include academics from the Australian Council of Engineering Deans, members of CSIRO’s climate science division and some of Australia’s leading engineering companies, including AECOM.
Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans says the roundtable series is first and foremost about getting the right people in a room to discuss how these issues can be tackled.
“We want to make sure we've got the right mix of people at the roundtable to ensure that both the science of engineering and the practice of engineering is represented,” says Dr Evans.
“Engineers have an important role to play. It is vital that we are “at the table.” Indeed, we need to be creating “the table” for these important discussions."
The first roundtable will be piloting the format to see what works and what doesn’t.
“For the first roundtable, we’re keeping it deliberately small to make sure that we are focused.” says Dr Evans.
Why engineers are key to the climate change conversation
While the roundtables will be a first for Engineers Australia, the organisation is no stranger to tackling the topic of climate change. Engineering experts have long discussed the dangers of climate change and the risks of increased bushfires, highlighted Australia’s ageing energy grid infrastructure, and also put forward new ideas in the designing of resilient energy systems.
Engineers Australia has also long stood for action on climate change and have asked members to adopt sustainability as one of their core ethics.
Engineers have a unique perspective when it comes to the practical challenges of solving climate change. While engineers respond to the need for consumer demand for energy, they also see the urgent need to find a solution to stop global warming.
“Engineers bring a real ‘systems thinking’ approach. They are able to use that sort of curiosity about how things are, why they are, and then be practical,” says Dr Evans.
Getting to the heart of a solution
These roundtables will be key in forming Engineers Australia’s official position statement that will detail the areas in which engineers are already contributing to the solution, and where there are gaps still to be addressed.
“We see the position statement as something that creates a framework and details how engineers can contribute to and be part of the solution,” says Dr Evans.
“Once this is formed, we can look at not just what the role of engineers and the engineering industry is, but also what the broader considerations need to be as a country and as an economy.
“I am an optimist. I really think we're going to be able to use the roundtables to trigger important discussions beyond the engineering profession. My ambition is that decision-makers will ask for an engineering perspective when solving these important national and global issues.” Dr Evans says.