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Lessons on engineering for climate change

Noted environmental engineer Jörg Imberger will give the Dugald Clerk lecture at the ICE later this month, with a message to the civil engineering community - you must make a step-change to design for an increasingly changeable world.

Professor Imberger will talk about how to re-engineer the earth following climate change.

“We must learn from past mistakes and mimic nature if we are to successfully re-engineer the earth after climate change”, he says.

Imberger’s lecture: The Origins, Engineering Challenges and Opportunities of Climate Change will explore engineering challenges presented by changing climate cycles.

The lecture will focus on the large number of competing feedback mechanisms in the water and aquatic cycles which he says mankind has interfered with to such an extent that the climate has been sent off into a completely new rhythm with different seasonal variations.

As rainfall patterns change and sea levels rise, disease patterns change and people human migrate more, huge engineering initiatives will be required. But they should not repeat the two major mistakes made in the past:

  1. The failure to clean up after themselves when moving infrastructure and to restore new ecosystems compatible with the new climate

  2. Paying no adherence to the interconnectivity between carbon, water and people


Imberger says engineers must learn to develop infrastructure where people can be accommodated, where energy is generated, bulk water harnessed and carbon sequestered in a single environment:

  • How a green environment can lead to better human health and also sequester an enormous amount of carbon

  • How lakes may be used to provide bulk water, sequester almost one quarter of the anthropogenic global carbon flux, provide enhanced fish yields and safeguard biodiversity

  • The proposed Severn Barrage will be as an example where such engineering ventures maybe used to stimulate the economy, generate a substantial amount of power, enhance the estuarine biodiversity, annually sequester up to possible 20% of UK’s anthropogenic carbon flux into the atmosphere and provide much better recreational accessibility

Professor Jörg Imberger is an internationally recognised and respected environmental engineer. Having recently been elected a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), Imberger was also inducted to the US National Academy of Engineering and American Geophysical Union. The 2007 ASLO A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement was also awarded to Imberger for his work on physical limnology.

Dugald Clerk lecture at One Great George Street on Tuesday 24 February. The lecture will also be available online.

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