‘Put theory into practice’

Engineers must learn from the revolutionary engineers of the past and take urgent action if a low carbon society is to be achieved, said Keith Clarke, chief executive of engineering design consultancy at Atkins.

Speaking at the 2010 ICE International Brunel Lecture Programme, Clarke said: “Moving to a low carbon society is as large a driver for engineers today as industrialisation was to our forefathers from the Victorian age. The stage we’re at right now akin to what Brunel might have experienced in his day – largely conceptual with little empirical knowledge, codes becoming outdated quickly and continuously, and rudimentary calculations being made based on many assumptions.”

Clarke told delegates that creating a low-carbon future represents a new design parameter that is disruptive rather than additive. “It’s a tremendous engineering challenge.”

He said seven maxims were needed for an effective engineering profession including:

·Challenge assumptions

·Innovate rigorously

·Pursue commercially viable low carbon technology

·Learn to love uncertainty

“It is imperative that we move beyond the rhetoric and into a new, results-driven era with urgency. Combating climate change requires a massive transformation of our infrastructure networks, in particular the urgent decarbonisation of energy generation, and if we don’t act now we risk seriously jeopardising our future quality of life, Clarke said.

He said: “Engineers have been devising theories and planning for the shift to a low carbon society for several years now, but the time is up – we must now put the theory into practice. We have to shift the focus from intellectualisation and hypothesising to action and delivering results, and this must be driven from within industry.”

ICE president Paul Jowitt added: “Although we all have a role to play in tackling climate change – from climatologists to politicians and the general public – the engineers’ role is somewhat more critical; we must provide the practical solutions.”

Clarke’s comments are part of his lecture in the 2010 ICE International Brunel Lecture Programme entitled “The Delivery of a Low Carbon Society – Beyond Rhetoric”. The 2010 ICE International Brunel Lecture Programme is traveling to cities worldwide.

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