National survey of Canada’s infrastructure engineers about climate change

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Courtesy of CSA Standards

Introduction

This independent survey was aimed at Canada’s professional engineers, and was conducted between April and June of 2007 by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Areas of investigation
The survey looks at Climate Change issues that are related to four broad categories of built infrastructure:

  • Buildings
  • Energy
  • Transportation
  • Water

In particular it investigates:

  • The current level of awareness of selected issues related to Climate Change. In particular, it looks at technical issues that are significant for many infrastructure engineers.
  • The practicing infrastructure engineer’s perspective on needs and priorities for addressing Climate Change issues.
  • Implications for university engineering curricula as well as professional development programs aimed at infrastructure engineers.

Background

One of the core principles for professional engineering is to make prudent decisions without compromising an engineer’s duty of care to the protection of the public. Increasingly, Climate Change issues will factor into this. Furthermore, engineers cannot simply consider climate change issues in isolation. Climate Change adds another dimension for engineers to consider.

Canada’s built infrastructure is often intended to have a useful service life of many decades. This can either be extended or degraded depending on a multitude of factors such as: initial design, proper operations and maintenance, as well as weather and climate factors. All of these act in combination to affect an infrastructure’s useful life.

Furthermore, Climate Change – the fact that historical weather patterns may no longer be indicative of what will happen in the future, could exacerbate the vulnerability of infrastructure in terms of degraded service life or premature failure. Many fields of engineering still rely heavily on historical weather data. Presently, future-looking weather data that is suitable for use in day-to-day engineering practice is often not readily available to Canadian engineers. Furthermore, many existing technical codes and standards still reference historical weather data. This adds to the complexity and uncertainty associated with engineering decisions about infrastructure.

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