The National Technical Secretary of the Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers Dr.Hillary Owamah has called on engineers in the country to factor in environmental protection and sustainability in their design and construction activities.
Owamah, who is an Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the Delta State University, Abraka, made the disclosure at an event organized by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in celebration of the 2021 World Engineering Day, held in Abuja, with the theme “Engineering for healthy planet”.
The university don, while speaking on the topic “Expected roles of Nigerian engineers in the fight against climate change for a healthier planet”, said that “engineers play an integral role in shaping humanity’s interaction with the earth.
He further opined that their daily work decisions, could have a range of environmental, social and economic impacts.
According to Owamah, “climate change does not just present environmental risks but also, a risk to global political stability, infrastructure and food security”.
“ since climate change was one of humanity’s biggest challenges of the 21st century, and its effects were already being felt around the world, it was imperative that the engineering profession commits to playing its part in combating climate change.
“ climate change as a systematic change in the long-term state of the atmosphere over multiple decades or longer.
“ since 2000, with the exception of 1998. He also informed the audience that while 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest years on record since 1880, the average global temperature on Earth has increased by a little more than 1° Celsius since 1880. These, he said were cause for serious worries for humanity continued existence on earth as annual greenhouse emissions had gone by up 70%.
On why humanity should care about one degree of warming, the scholar said that in the past, a one- to two-degree drop, was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age. He further explained that a five-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago, during the heart of the period known as the “Little Ice Age” of the 17th Century, as temperatures were extremely low in much of Europe and what would become the eastern United States.
He attributed the causes of climate change and global warming to change in the earth’s energy balance due to excess greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. The notable engineer outlined some of the effects of climate change as greater variability, with “wetter wets”, “drier dries” and “hotter hots”, more frequent and severe extreme heat events, severe droughts, intense precipitation, higher average temperatures and longer frost-free seasons, longer wildfire seasons and worse wildfires, recurrent coastal flooding with high tides and storm surges, more frequent and severe floods due to intense precipitation and spring snowmelt etc.
Owamah told the participants that climate solutions fall generally into two big buckets — mitigation and adaptation. He further said that mitigation refers to measures that reduce the amount and speed of future climate change by reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while adaptation are measures taken to reduce the harmful impacts of climate change. “If you keep adapting without mitigating, what you are doing is compounding the effects on the poor. Also, reducing carbon dioxide emissions will not halt climate change, in the immediate as carbon (IV) oxide stays for about 50-250 years in the atmosphere.
“Engineers need to start sustainable adaptation and mitigation that requires rapid action to ‘decarbonise’ our buildings, transport and energy systems, industries, etc. Owamah called on engineering professional institutions like the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to play a pivotal role, by providing a co-ordinated response in helping to mitigate climate change.
According to him, “they could take a stand in tackling climate change, by developing a declaration, imposing restrictions and requirements on members. The environmental expert noted that a strong and coordinated action by the engineering profession, could itself, make a significant difference in how we respond to climate change.
In his concluding remarks, Owamah said that “engineers influence the development of key industries, responsible for emissions and as such, changes in engineering practice, would have significant potential to change our current emissions profile.
He reiterated that engineers are professionals, who recognise themselves as part of a profession with a code of ethics and that a key characteristic of a profession is that it is self-regulating and recognises its duty to the public.
He also noted that the profession’s institutions have a significant public voice and carry respect and their positions on issues in their field can carry weight in wider situations as a result of their expertise. In that context, according to the guest speaker, “if the engineering profession makes a bold statement about the need to address climate change and about its intention to assert set strict standards, this is likely to be more effective than similar advice, coming from other groups”