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civil engineering: a game changer for climate change?.

Rachel Skinner, newly elected president of ICE, made climate change a priority in a film marking her appointment.

Pointing to the country's rapid response to the coronavirus pandemic, Skinner said it was a blueprint for the way to net-zero and had shown that we could change fast when needed.

The infrastructure problem

Skinner cited infrastructure as a major issue for climate change and urged civil engineers to make a significant impact on our collective futures. She highlighted the fact that engineers have been designing, creating and improving infrastructure for centuries, solving promises and creating a better future for all.

Pinpointing infrastructure investment as 'unsustainable', the president pointed out the fact that scientists had been warning of a serious man made imbalance in our ecosystems since the 1950s, a situation made worse by population growth: "We're living way beyond our means each and every day." 

Climate change sceptics

Skinner also had hard words for climate change sceptics at the heart of the engineering community who refuse to accept the severity of the climate change crisis. But she was quick to praise civil engineers who have a stake in the issue and are using their skills and expertise to try and halt climate change.

In a specially commissioned film, Skinner made the case for addressing the issue of carbon dioxide gas as the biggest single contributor to climate change. As the film points out, carbon dioxide may only make up 0.041% of our atmosphere, or 410 parts per million, but levels have been resign steadily since the Industrial Revolution, and we currently release 35 billion metric tonnes into the atmosphere every year, a figure that has nearly doubled since the 1970s.

With contributions from explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, former ICE President Sir John Armitt, and former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the film makes a powerful case for limiting global warming by just 1.5C by 2050, in line with UN Intergovernmental Panel findings. As Skinner points out, these carbon hungry operations are creating excess emissions that are destabilising the planet and could have fatal consequences for our ecosystems
Three critical goals

While the industry reduced its carbon emissions by 23% between 2010-2018, there is still more to be done Skinner said. She went on to lay out three critical goals for the industry to meet 2050 targets.

The first priority, the president said, is the protection of the environment and natural systems. Second, the use of technology including carbon capture to stop or remove emissions and thirdly the need to design and build infrastructure that can adapt to a changing climate.

As part of ICE's collaborative efforts to address the issue, a new data set has been released providing the most accurate assessment to date of carbon in infrastructure. ICE has also recently launched the Carbon Project Initiative to build political influence and promote the need for change in the carbon space.

ICE is also a founding partner of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure, which has reach across 16 countries and six continents to share net-zero opportunities and challenges through 2020 and beyond.

In closing, Skinner pointed out there was nothing special about consciously considering carbon at every step of the infrastructure design and build process. "It's important to understand that this is not a race," she concluded. "And no-one really wins unless we all do."

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