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Adaptation to Climate Change

The charter of the engineering Founder Societies’ Carbon Management Project includes cooperative activities on adaptation to climate change, as well as the cooperative efforts on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions that have occupied the project for the past years. Therefore, this memorandum provides background for a Carbon Management Working Group on Adaptation and notes possible topics for its work. It solicits representatives from the Founder Societies for the working group to help in defining and implementing the work plan for the working group.

Physical evidence and scientific community consensus show that the world is in a period of climate change leading to alteration of weather patterns and increase of their extremes. Extremes in temperatures; droughts; wildfires; rainfall, snowfall; flooding; wind velocities and storm surge define the loadings to which engineered facilities must provide resilience throughout their long service lives. References include: the U.S. National Research Council’s report “Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, 2010, which can be viewed, downloaded and/or purchased here; and the 2011 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” available at www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/.

Adaptation to Climate Change is a major theme of the Carbon Management Technology Conference (CMTC) on February 7, 2011. See info on the CMTC series here.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has established a Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate. It will evaluate technical requirements for adaptation to climate change and plan responsive activities in the institutes and other elements of ASCE. These activities will include research and development related to climate change and its effects on the safety, health and welfare of the public as it interfaces with civil engineering infrastructure. The research may lead to establishment of appropriate standards, loading criteria and evaluation and design procedures for buildings and other structures, coastal, river and port facilities, communications, dams, earthworks and foundations, energy generation and transmission, storm water, transportation, and water supply and sewage treatment. A workshop on Observational and Analytic Climate Modeling for Engineering Applications was held November 17, 2011.

In 2010, ASCE’s Council for Disaster Risk Management co-sponsored a workshop on sea level rise and its impact on coastal infrastructure. It is preparing a monograph on the subject with the theme of vulnerability and risk analyses.

The Carbon Management Project’s Working Group on Adaptation to Climate Change can stimulate and link related and cooperative activities in the Founder Societies, and hold workshops, conferences and briefings on topics meriting multi-society collaborations.

  • Workshop: “Observational and Analytical Climate Modeling for Engineering Applications” - This workshop had a goal to foster understanding and improve the transparency of the observational and analytical modeling necessary to update and describe climate conditions for planning and engineering design of the built and natural environment. It was sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate.