EWB Conference Heightens Awareness to Adaptation Issues

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[Cross posted at GAIN] Engineers will be among those on the front lines of adaptation. From improving the resilience of water pipes and energy transport systems to redesigning how entire urban areas are built, engineering firms will need to solve new challenges created by population growth, urbanization and climate change.

Incorporation of new scientific, economic and social science data is becoming more critical as unprecedented changes are upon us. Engineering innovation and technology will be part of the solution. These were the main takeaways according to participants at the Engineers Without Borders (EWB)–USA 10-year anniversary International Conference in Henderson, Nev., March 22-24.

The Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN) was an integral part of the thGroup Photoree-day conference. GAIN Director of Science & Technology Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño and Vice President of Development Tim Wierzbicki hosted an EWB Global Dialogue Session titled, “What adaptation responses are needed to meet the challenges of climate change?”

EWB Founder Dr. Bernard Amadei opened the conference by outlining his passion for founding the organization – the urgency to save lives and improve livelihoods and the expansion of global responsibility.

Following, Boeing Chief Technology Officer Dr. John J. Tracy agreed engineering can be a powerful agent of change. Boeing, one of the major EWB conference sponsors, must build complex machines with adaptive engineering to ensure sound operation today and 50 years from now, Tracy said.

Several business leaders from AECOM, ASCE, CDM Smith and CH2M Hill and EWB’s Austin Chapter of university students formed the panel for GAIN’s Global Dialogue, which was introduced by EWB Board Member Paul Shea. The panel concluded that there is an increasing awareness and need for pragmatic approaches to building resilience.

Dr. Bruno Sanchez Andrade NunoElliott Gall, second year Ph.D. candidate and EPA STAR Fellow in the department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, said there is an increasing need for projects in the developing world that address climate change issues with proactive resiliency.

Organizations such as EWB can help address this important need by, one: partnering with communities affected by climate change to develop long term technical and social solutions to their changing needs, and two: giving a voice to susceptible populations to help direct aid efforts, Gall said.

Claire Bonham-Carter, AECOM Principal and Director of Sustainable Development, stressed the importance of integration in carrying out adaptation projects abroad and in the U.S., noting the vulnerability of airports in northern California.

Adaptation work should not be an isolated activity or strategy. We all must work together, she said.

Kathy Freas, CH2M HILL Global Director for Water Resources and Ecosystem Management Services, who the week earlier had testified before Congress, emphasized the need to unite cross-sectional efforts to help rethink the approach to adaptation. Association should include a united framework of action, a stronger cooperation and collaboration, an emphasis in communications and the ability to ask the right questions.

Adaptation needs an integrated strategy, Freas said. Engineers should ask themselves, What are the implications of projects in relation to future climate scenarios? How will the surrounding environment respond?

Tim WierzbickiDan Rodrigo, CDM Smith Vice President and Water Resources Market Leader, reinforced the importance of integrated planning, particularly in the area of water issues. Understanding water quantity, quality and usage is primarily important, but other factors should also be considered.

Sustainability is an outcome that looks beyond the short-term, Rodrigo said.

Gall currently works on one of EWB-USA's 600 worldwide projects – the Climate Adaptation in Mountain Basins in the Andean Region (CAMBIAR) in Peru.

EWB goes to the community to understand the situation, partner with experts and, with the engagement of the local community, discuss and implement solutions to adaptation challenges, he said.

GAIN also hosted two Learning Sessions on the GAIN Index that discussed the motivation to create the Index, communication platforms for its use and how it relates to EWB projects. The GAIN Index was viewed as an excellent starting point from where more can be built. At the end, if progress cannot be measured, it doesn’t exist.

The GAIN Index is designed to be open source for anyone to review, reuse and contribute, and modular to create an unbiased look at countries.

The GAIN Index, during its consultation process, was reviewed by more than 200 experts in the water, food & agriculture, coastal protection and energy sectors (See acknowledgements on White Paper). View the GAIN Index at index.gain.org.

Thanks to Cathy Leslie, EWB Executive Director; Art Enns, EWB Development Director; Dianne Shanks, EWB Director of Outreach; and Mary Perkins, EWB Development Manager Corporate Relations; and the EWB team that hosted a stimulating conversation with engineers from around the world about adaptation and other development issues.


Photos from top:

Photo 1: From left, Dan Rodrigo, CDM Smith Vice President and Water Resources Market Leader; Elliott Gall, second year Ph.D. candidate and EPA STAR Fellow in the department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin; Kathy Freas, CH2M HILL Global Director for Water Resources and Ecosystem Management Services; Claire Bonham-Carter, AECOM Principal and Director of Sustainable Development; Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño, GAIN Director of Science & Technology; Paul Shea, EWB Board Member; and Tim Wierzbicki, GAIN Vice President of Development

Photo 2: Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño, GAIN Director of Science & Technology

Photo 3: Tim Wierzbicki, GAIN Vice President of Development

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