Civil engineers are responsible for designing and building the infrastructure that keeps modern society functioning and moving forward. They are the creators of everything from highways to power plants, buildings to waste treatment facilities. Without their knowledge and expertise, humanity would not be able to survive on an industrial level.
Currently, civil engineers are faced with the same challenge that vexes all of humankind: climate change. Climate change is responsible for extreme heatwaves, rising sea levels, unstable water supplies, and more. Civil engineers must work in these intense, changing climate conditions to provide society with infrastructure that works based on the planet’s current and future conditions.
Sustainable adaptation and mitigation are two focus areas for civil engineers in the era of climate change. They must conceive methods to build and create sustainably, such as using fewer fossil fuels in the construction of specific infrastructure types. Fossil fuels come from the earth and are not infinite, and it is essential to reduce their use on every level.
Changes in the level of rainfall and increased droughts will require civil engineers’ mitigation: how can they ensure a clean and plentiful water supply? How can they manage the needs of a human population and take care of the environment? Is it possible to build a society’s infrastructure to support both people and nature?
These are not easy questions to grapple with, especially when one stops to consider that civil engineers develop all types of buildings, industrial facilities, water resource facilities, transportation of all forms, and so much more. Most infrastructure forms are built to have a very long service life, from 50 to 100+ years. Therefore, civil engineers must project into the future and anticipate the needs of consumers living a century from now.
They also must find ways to reduce greenhouse emissions, ensure water quality, and not destroy the environment. They need to plan for earthquakes, wildfires, floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events caused by climate change. Civil engineers have an essential role in the climate change arena, and hopefully, humanity will be supportive of their valiant efforts to aid us.