INNOVATION July-August 2015

f ea t ures

CLIMATE CHANGE A Risk Management Issue with Professional Implications for Engineers and Geoscientists

Glen Parker, P.Eng., Dr. Conor Reynolds, P.Eng., Dr. Brian Menounos, P.Geo.

Questions about climate change and its impacts are being discussed in all kinds of forums, from bar- beques to scientific gatherings. No absolute answers exist, but uncertainty is a concept that engineers and geoscientists are familiar with and regularly address. In addition, the public often looks to engineers and geoscientists for guidance on risk management issues, including assessing climate change impacts and how to address the identified risks. This guidance role is reinforced in codes of ethics and professional guidelines for APEGBC members. APEGBC recently published a position paper entitled, A Changing Climate in British Columbia , in which registrants are ex- pected to keep informed about climate change and consider its potential impacts. We make the case that climate change should be treated by engineers and geoscientists within a risk management framework; indeed, in many cases it is already being addressed in this manner. To deal with uncertainty, a risk management framework generally includes the following actions: 1. Identify and characterize threats; 2. Assess the vulnerability of critical assets to specific threats; 3. Determine the risk (i.e., the expected likelihood and consequences of specific threats on specific assets); 4. Identify ways to reduce those risks; and 5. Prioritize risk reduction measures based on a strategy. Effective risk management stems from the identification and characterization of a threat, based on an assessment of available data and evidence. As applied scientists, engineers and geoscientists must, for practical reasons, rely on trusted authorities to provide tools and projections to do their work.


J U LY/AU G U S T 2 015

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