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Climate paper is misleading


We were surprised to see a paper on climate stability in the proceedings of the ICE and that it was named as a 'Prestige Paper' presentation.

While we support the scientific and evidence-based debates on climate science, the ICE should not throw its support behind a poorly researched thesis about climate change.

Engineers are well aware that the climate is an uncertain phenomenon, yet the authors propose that we should discount the latest science because of uncertainties.

This is a dangerous proposition and is inconsistent with responsible engineering practice.

Engineers were designing structures to withstand the variable weather for centuries before climate change was mooted. Now responsible engineers are incorporating the best available projections into their designs within riskbased frameworks.

While the original design of the Thames Barrier considered storm surge frequency, it did not account for the accelerated thermal expansion of the oceans which has led to a more rapid global sea level rise than was anticipated.

Fortunately, the wise design decisions taken at the time have ensured the barrier's success and longevity.

Do the authors believe that the designers responsible for upgrading London's flood defence system should ignore scientific estimates of sea level rise because of the uncertainties? Londoners would rightly regard this as highly negligent rather than an alarmist over-reaction to the risks of climate change.

Civil engineers have an essential role to play in adapting society to the anticipated impact of climate change. The paper by Bellamy and Barrett is a misleading distraction from this important task.

Dr Richard Dawson, Prof Jim Hall, Prof Enda O'Connell, Chris Kilsby, Dr Hayley Fowler, Dr Mike Walkden, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Civil Engineering & Geosciences, Newcastle University

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