A Big Question

How are we going to adapt engineering education to prepare coming generations of engineers for climate warming and the need to protect people and infrastructure? How can we prepare them to re-engineer almost our entire civilisation to eliminate greenhouse and other harmful emissions in 25 years?

As you would know, I often write about engineers and engineering, and education issues. However, I have usually stopped short of specific recommendations, relying on my books and articles to convey ideas that educators can use.

Next week I am speaking at a panel discussion at Engineers Australia Perth on Wednesday March 31, 5:30 – 8pm. Register here to join in the discussion and contribute your ideas, or if you cannot join us then, reply to this post.

I have 5 minutes to start the discussion… what do you think I should I emphasise?

Well, here are the ideas I plan to touch on.

  • Productivity: if we don’t teach engineers that their fundamental role is to enable people to do more with less time, effort, resources, energy etc, in other words improve productivity, we can’t expect significant improvement. And that’s exactly what economists are reporting – see this post.
  • Need for an agreed “backbone” workplace learning curriculum common across most engineering disciplines
  • Graduates inherit independent work habits from formal education, whereas workplace requires inter-dependent work habits
  • Engineering requires specialised collaboration methods, beyond team work
  • Knowing how to create commercial value from engineering work practices will help employers’ profitability
  • Capability to argue for sustainability improvements requires understanding of regulatory risks and value creation
  • Aboriginal notion of ‘country’ could be helpful in promoting sustainable practices

Pothole in Australia’s Emissions Policy?

Over the last few weeks I have been studying Australia’ climate and emissions reduction policy. Remember the bush fires before Covid-19 took over the news media? Few disagree now that we have to hurry up and got on board the world-wide push towards zero net emissions by mid-century… except perhaps Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister Taylor assert that Australia will meet the 2030 emission reduction target “in a canter”. We may just do that, but in 2031 or soon after we will hit a massive pothole unless we make changes very soon.

Australia is relying on emission credits carried forward from the 1997 Kyoto climate accord to the December 2015 Paris agreement. We undershot our emissions targets over several years, partly because of the cap and trade scheme we started in 2012 which Tony Abbott labelled the ‘carbon tax’ before abolishing it.

Never mind that carrying forward credits is not mentioned in the Paris agreement. Our government is going to try and float this one anyway.

According to the 2019 projections available at the Industry Department web site, we can maintain our current level of emissions with no further reductions right out to 2030 using these credits. But, then what?

Read this op-ed piece and see if you agree with my assessment. Comments welcome!

Did you see or comment on the government’s low emissions technology roadmap? In a few days I will post my comments and submissions.