By Sean O’Conbhui
Outline of the Issue
When the ageing Barney McKenna, the world famous Dubliner and Banjo Player, said “my future is behind me” he could have been talking about Climate Change. We have emitted enough greenhouse gases to raise the CO2 levels in the atmosphere to 400 parts per million (ppm) when in reallity anything over 350ppm is going to cause us serious problems. (Ice Melt, Species movement, Drought, Food issues etc.etc.). The present sea-level rise prediction of 1m by 2100 (eighty odd years) should be enough to concentrate our minds and indeed the recent International Paris Agreement on Reducing Emissions shows we are beginning to realise the problems we face. Even in mainstream engineering we are taking cognisance of these facts to the point that in Ireland river flow designs have been increased by 25% to account for the expected increase in flooding potential. The American Military Corp with responsibility for flooding in the USA is using the 5 feet (1.5m) increase level rather than the lesser 1 m sea level rise we use here in Europe.
Bringing in Technology for the Future
Engineers love problems so they can find solutions. This is where technology comes in. At its most basic the construction technology of sheet piling is already beginning to blossom and can only bloom over the next century as we face the aforementioned water issues. (Sheet piles lock together to form a seal to keep water at bay). This is an old physical technology which has not and probably will not be replaced in our more modern digital age. That doesn’t mean that there is not a place for newer technologies in the “War on Climate”. I use this term with consideration as that is where we are! The Paris Agreement in its present form like its Kyoto Processor is not sufficient to bring us anywhere near where we need to be.
Ericson Mobility Report November 2015 outlining the projected Influence of ICT.
Hope for the Future
Where modern technology is being used to measure GHG's and in emissions trading it is an excellent tool. Modern technologies are also being tried to find some silver bullets in our climate fight - Green Vehicles, Energy Efficient Buildings and PV Solar the latter appears to be a possible solution to the Fossil Fuel problem. ICT is at the forefront of all these technologies and will continue to be so. An area where it is currently taking off is in the area of satellite measurement of parameters that effect the climate. This data is being used to convince us of the need to look forward.
The Future Use of Satellites may be our Salvation
The Political Conundrum and the Internet
The biggest problem though is not the technologies but the political will to implement them. This is where the internet comes in. The only way to change the political will is for people to first let politicians know there is a problem which concerns them and then vote for those who are prepared to take risks to allow engineers to solve them. There are many excellent websites advocating the required changes needed 350.org being one leading site. Here in Ireland we don’t see the issue as much of a problem – yet! Perhaps we all need to publicise the major problem we face and use the internet as the magnificent tool it is to influence people so as to give hope to our grandchildren since as Barney and the Dubliners also said fal-la-lal-de-la-lal-de-la-lae!