Sunday, May 12, 2013

400 PPM

For the first time in recorded history (and perhaps as long as 3 million years), the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has been measured at greater than 400 parts per million (ppm). It is points like this, of seemingly minor immediate significance, that we may look back on as the road signs on our journey of stupidity.

Signs that we may have heeded, and didnt.

I am increasingly impacted by the apparent indifference to climate change (or anthropogenic global warming - AGW) that I observe in my engineering colleagues, precisely because ours is a profession supposedly founded on science.

To me it is quite straightforward:

1.    Do you believe in science?

Yes: Please proceed.

No: Either go back to school or join your nearest Conservative party. An engineer who does not believe in science really has no business being an engineer: scientific inquiry is the basis of engineering application.

2. Do you believe climate science is good science?

Yes: Please proceed.

No: Explain why the G8 science academies and all institutions not aligned with the fossil fuel industry agree that it is good science - in short, explain why the global consensus is wrong. Then go out and publish, in peer reviewed journals, good science about the climate to improve our broad understanding.

3. Do you understand the implications of the global consensus on AGW?

Yes: Please proceed.

No: go and read the IPCC 4th assessment report (the 5th is due imminently). Also refer to Nature Geoscience, NOAA or NASA for further information. In summary, AGW is the greatest challenge of our age and poses a threat to human prosperity and existence at a scale matched only, perhaps, by the threat of nuclear warfare.

4. If you've got this far, are you doing everything in your power to mitigate and adapt to the threats of AGW?

Because if you believe the science, and understand the implications, there is no condoning an approach which does not prioritise mitigation and adaptation as the absolute highest priority in every decision we make.

History will judge our engineers for inaction nearly as harshly as it will judge our politicians. Short-term self-interest will not prove an acceptable excuse.


  1. And yet I have no doubt that you can find climate denialist and conspiracy theorist engineers all around. I know I've encountered some in WSP (RSA). Incredible to believe.

  2. It's not just a case of finding the odd skeptic or denier - my impression is that the majority of engineers, certainly in the built environment, fall into this category... And in my view, it's unforgivable.

  3. I liked Ian Dunlop's document regarding these issues. It's written from the Australian point of view and rather straightforward. #86 here: