The Benefits of Infusing Climate Change Impacts Throughout ASCE Core Business Activities

Recent ASCE report cards have recognized the gap in infrastructure investment and have been used to effect in advancing governmental budget requests. However, both the Failure to Act report and the 2021 ASCE report card understate (or omit) the role climate change played in compounding the impacts of inadequate infrastructure funding during the response and recovery from recent disasters. The current Administration looks to fund nearly $2T in infrastructure and related projects through its American Jobs Plan. Regardless of the eventual success of that proposal, now is the time to ensure infrastructure investments are made with a view to their future longevity and resilience. With Federal agency guidance wisely focused on protecting future assets and investments by accounting for climate change, organizations that minimize the importance of climate change across all activities will rightly fall out of influence. Recent legislation with bipartisan sponsorship has called for practical science-based guidance on how to increase resilience to future changes in weather and climate extremes. Such efforts need to be given a more prominent position in key ASCE documents to maintain their current level of influence with government entities and private sector investors. Finally, a recent survey by the ICE for the Global Engineering Congress found that ~20 percent more millennials prioritized climate change and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) higher than non-millennials. As such, we consider that addressing climate change in a timely, focused and responsive manner requires a new approach. Instead of treating it as an independent problem, climate change and its potential consequences need to be infused across all activities. This can be achieved with several key actions:

1. Infrastructure needs to be “futurized” not just modernized. ASCE can support Federal Agency guidance through greater emphasis on long-term resilience to climate change in its publications, and specifically those pertaining to the forthcoming $2T infrastructure bill.

2. Leading the way, not following the herd. The ASCE is a thought leader in its production of the “Infrastructure Report Card” and “Failure to Act” Reports. Taking a leading stance on the cross-cutting implications of climate change would maintain this reputation among ASCE’s peers and with the general public as noted in ASCE Policy 365.

3. Continuing to influence national and international standards. More agencies, in the USA and abroad, require explicit treatment of climate change in the design and construction of publicly funded projects. Ensuring that ASCE Codes and Standards meet this need is essential to ensure their continued influence, importance, and publication sales.

4. Delivering a clear message. Drawing together different ASCE priorities and policies that already address climate change (e.g. 360, 389, 421, 441, 442, 488, 489, 517, 530, 545, 563, among others) will ensure safe, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure and support the implementation of civil engineering aspects of the SDGs. More critically, it is fundamental to addressing the ASCE Grand Challenge.

5. Engaging the future workforce. Young professionals are mindful of the societal relevance of their work. Making climate change a more prevalent issue will likely encourage greater engagement and membership retention within this group.

Prepared by: Mari R. Tye, Ph.D. C.Eng. M.ASCE M.ICE, Chair Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate (CACC) Jason P. Giovannettone, Ph.D. P.E. M.ASCE, Vice-Chair CACC Kelcy T. Adamec, P.E. M.ASCE, Member CACC Robert E. Fields, P.E. M.ASCE, Member CACC Executive Committee Miguel A. Medina Jr., Ph.D. H.G. F.ASCE, Member CACC Executive Committee Dan Walker, Ph.D. A.M. ASCE, Chair Committee on Climate Intelligence in Codes and Standards.

© 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers.

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