Global climate change (also known as global warming) has been receiving more andmore traction in the news in the past few decades. This topic, seen as a politically controversialtopic, is known as a serious fact that must be dealt with among engineers. Global climate changeis the altering of climates around the world, especially in a dramatic manner. This change takeson the form of temperature altering, which in turn affects temperature dependent processes likethe water cycle. If the proper actions are not taken, climate change could engulf the world incatastrophic weather. From a devastating hurricane season in 2017, to “the five warmest years inthe global record having all come in the 2010s” (Climate Central, 2018), it is clear to see thatthe threat of climate change is here and gaining in strength.
Global climate change is not a “new” problem as its effects have been experienced wellthroughout the 20th into the 21st centuries. Many scientist have concluded that the main culpritsof this global change are greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is apowerful greenhouse gas as it aids to prevent heat in the atmosphere from escaping and can staywithin the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Rapidly increasing, the rise in carbon levels in theatmosphere can be contributed to human dependence on fossil fuels. Back in 2016, ” for thesecond year in a row, carbon dioxide concentrations as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory roseat a record-fast clip, according to new data released by the Environmental System ResearchLaboratory (ESRL)” (Kahn, 2016).All of this carbon dioxide helps to trap heat radiated by the Sun, altering the globaltemperature. Temperature is a key factor in many earth processes, specifically dealing with watercycles. “Due to global warming many subsystems of the global water cycle are likely tointensify, resulting in many regions in an increase of flood magnitude as well as floodfrequency” (Karamouz, Zahmatkesh, and Nasif, 2013).
Due to this increase in temperature, icefrom land like Greenland melts and raises the sea levels, increasing chance of heavier floodingand and storm surge, as which was seen in the 2017 hurricane season, desemating communitieswithin the state of Texas and the island of Puerto Rico. The increase in sea level and decrease ofice at the caps caused by the temperature increase has cause for what scientist have been callinga “feedback loop.” This ‘loop’ is based on the physical characteristics and differences betweenice and liquid water.
“Polar ice is so reflective that 90% of sunlight that strikes it simply bouncesback into space…Ocean water does just the opposite, absorbing 90% of the energy it receives.The more energy it retains, the warmer it gets” (Kluger, 2007).
This fact that liquid water retainsmore energy than its solid counterpart represents the issue with climate change and water in thatnow not only is the heat being transported by air but sea as well, leading to the disruption ofecosystems that depend on cooler temperatures and ice, like coral and sea lions.Prerna Singhchange in font colorPrerna Singhscientists This shift in temperature caused by carbon emissions has also altered the wind and aircycle. The intense heat that the Earth has been experiencing has led to devastating disasterscaused by extensive droughts and heat waves. Back in 2015, a massive drought struck Californiaand the damages “cost the state $2.
7 billion in losses” and the heat “helped burn up roughly118,000 acres of forest” (Kahn, 2015). More recently, in 2017, Oklahoma was struck withwildfires caused by a drought that “burned nearly 900,000 acres of Oklahoma,” where the fires”destroyed dozens of buildings and killed seven people as well as hundreds of cattle”(Thompson, 2017). These gradually intensifying disasters have cost lives, money, andenvironments, and without action, global climate change will continue to impact our world innegative ways.Through the fields of Civil and Environmental engineering, action is taking place toaddress the issues brought upon by global climate change.
One large, and potential crucialmethod of tackling climate change is coming from the branch of environmental engineering. Themethod uses the term ‘geoengineering’, a form of environmental engineering coined in 1977 byItalian physicist Cesare Marchetti, to describe the work of removing or minimizing theconcentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One process being worked on is calledCarbon capture and storage , a process in which engineers “chemically scrub carbon dioxide outof the air and then store the carbon underground” (Hulme, 2014). This procedure is relativelynew in the engineering world, yet plausible.
As of right now, areas in the United States arelooking to implement this procedure where energy costs are low and connected to large, fixed,power stations. Another plan by engineers to combat climate change is in the reservoir system ofEngland and Wales. Back in 1995/1996, the England and Wales area was hit with a massivedrought, creating a precedence on water management and treatment to prevent further droughts.Working with the government on policy and rules, civil engineers in England and Wales workedon a new reservoir design to retain more water depending on the current climate. “Reservoirswere designed to ensure drawdown is not too rapid and refill is adequate in the winter”(Mawdsley and Foster, 2000). This system, however, its only a temporary solution as engineerslook to study the reservoir system on it sustainability and potential improvements.
One moreexample comes from civil engineers dealing with infrastructure in South Africa. Preparing forthe effects of climate change, engineers are looking to prepare roads in a manner that wouldminimize future costs as well as the negative effects of climate change, like desertification.Global climate change is a real and inevitable concern among civil engineers as we mustlook to design and build the foundation of a cleaner and more efficient world. Climatetemperatures climb and carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have ever been in years. It isour duty as civil engineers to commit to reversing the effects of this global threat, working toguarantee the safety and preservation of communities, the economy and our ecosystem