Engineering professionals had central roles in designing, building and operating the power plants, oil rigs, coal mining equipment, roads, urban infrastructure and the buildings products, factories, cars, trucks and airplanes that have generated the greenhouse gas emissions now in the atmosphere. The climate science is clear. Rapid reduction of GHG emissions is required, on the order of 10% per year for the next 20 years in order to have a 50% chance of staying below the climate stability failure limit of 2 oC global warming.
The role of engineering in achieving this trajectory is for engineering ethos to progress rapidly, adopting a transition duty of care for achieving the required fossil fuel, nitrogen oxide and other man-made GHG reductions. This type of duty of care first emerged one hundred years ago amongst industrial engineers. Safety engineering started with a meeting of 62 engineers in New York following the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. The discipline for Safety Engineers is to prevent deaths, injuries and disasters. Environmental Health and Safety Engineers are small in number but huge in leadership, researching and developing safety equipment and standards.
Transition Engineering is an emerging field where engineers in all disciplines use a standard methodology to change unsustainable practices through innovating and carrying out “carbon shift projects” that achieve the deep 80% downshift in fossil fuel use, while increasing long-term real values, reliability and wellbeing.
The figures show the fossil carbon that has been extracted. The carbon is building up on a bridge with a failure limit of 800 Gt-C. Consider all of the things that had been accomplished on the Earth by 1960 with the 100 Gt-C historical fossil fuel consumption. From 1960-1980 another 100 Gt-C was extracted, but how much more benefit was derived? From 1980 to 2014 an amazing 350 Gt-C was extracted. Most of it was consumed in power plants, factories and civilian and military vehicles. The remaining “carbon budget” of 250 Gt-C will be loaded onto the bridge by 2035, and climate stability will have failed.
Engineers in all disciplines can rapidly gain Transition Engineering leadership training. The most important aspect of Transition Engineering is the perspective. There are no solutions to climate change. There are thousands of carbon shift changes that stop fossil carbon from being extracted and reduce the risk of runaway global warming.
The Essential Effective Action to Stop Runaway Global Warming: Stop Fossil Fuel Extraction
New just transition investment funds of £3.5 trillion for projects that shift current infrastructure, behaviour, or products to 80% less fossil fuel used only for essential wellbeing. The Global Association for Transition Engineering grows and training is widespread.
OIL, GAS AND COAL PRODUCTION
Deep and rapid reduction of emissions requires deep and rapid reduction of fossil fuel extraction and production. The magnitude of the petroleum sector engineering challenge to achieve the required reductions and decommissioning cannot be overstated.
Engineering the production reduction requires attention to safety and environmental responsibility, and also innovating ways to continue to produce fossil fuels at low levels for the very long term to meet essential needs around the world.
Fossil fuel companies operate internationally. Engineering analysis will be needed to inform international and national policy on the optimal subsidies, regulations, standards, Carbon Cap and Trade, and price controls to achieve the energy transition to low carbon.
International agreements brokered by the UN, the IEA and OECD will be necessary to ensure that the reduction of fossil fuel does not create a black market, or price gouging, and is carried out equitably between rich and poor nations. Engineering solutions for monitoring fossil fuel supply chains will involve innovations that facilitate the international agreements.
The transition will require incentives and levies on oil and gas and coal companies to reduce production by as much as 10% p.a. year on year. State-owned companies produce ~80% of the world’s oil and gas and institutional changes can be found with the aid of oil and gas engineers to accelerate the process in decommissioning oil and gas and coal production. Transition Engineering will produce innovations that open up new areas of operation for oil and gas companies.
As the oil supply reductions are anticipated and achieved, there will be a massive up-take of sustainable transport engineering solutions in public transport, shared vehicles, active transport, and re-organisation of urban forms around the globe.
The innovations in transport engineering will be in the change projects and management of the demand reduction and behaviour adaptations.
Transport Transition Engineering is paramount for reduction of automobile production, decommissioning of fuel depots and services stations, growth of electric rail, urban trams and coastal shipping, and particularly in innovating ways to adapt for freight logistics and airline travel.
Electric Power Engineering (EPE) experts will undertake the transition engineering of the power grid using first principles and whole-system priorities. EPE experts will be honest with politicians and the public about the potential energy supply, costs and power grid stability with large proportion of intermittent renewables. EPE experts will work with Energy Managers, Energy Engineers, and Building Services to develop demand-side participation innovations that marry up the supply and demand.
An international movement of Energy Transition Engineering in EPE is essential to design the downshift of coal power generation in all nations.
The lessons of history have shown that behaviour rapidly adapts to change. The duty of care for transition also includes due diligence on achieving rapid behaviour adaptation to low carbon systems and regenerative processes.
Electrification consumes vast quantities of copper, aluminium, lithium, platinum and other rare earth minerals that are produced from mining and material processing. Mining and Materials Engineers have a major role to play in providing rigorous advice to government and investors about the availability and viability of materials needed for energy transition.
CAPTURING AND BALANCING EMISSIONS
Engineers in Coal and gas power generation, fertiliser production and steel production will be honest with politicians and the public about the possibility to engineer the transition to 80% less emissions with Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), and begin immediately to either install such systems or engineer the transition in some other manner.
Engineers will rigorously and transparently assess geoengineering proposals and provide evaluations of energy inputs, unintended consequences, risks and feasibility. Concepts that do not have short term feasibility cannot be allowed to distract from all of the Transition Engineering solutions. Geoengineering concepts include seeding oceans with iron to increase phytoplankton biocapacity, and reducing solar heating of polar regions with cloud brightening.
Engineering solutions for protecting the remaining natural biocapacity across the globe include satellite and aerial surveillance, barriers, tracking of products and environmental supply chain monitoring. Monitoring of fishing fleets, global plastic packaging reduction and waste management are essential areas where Transition Engineering solutions are essential.
Enhancing regeneration of biocapacity in degraded areas is an area where Environmental Transition Engineering could contribute with complex system analysis, applying environmental science and developing new behaviours from local extraction industries and communities.
There are only a few organisations that monitor biological carbon in ecosystems and sell protection of these areas as carbon offsets. Natural Resource Transition Engineering will develop technologies to monitor the biocapacity and regeneration of ecosystems around the world and thus bring the value of natural carbon regeneration into the global carbon market. Trusted measurement of biocapacity will stimulate growth of regenerative industries.
Industrial agriculture relies heavily on mechanical and chemical engineering. The transition of high GHG production practices requires engineers in the agricultural sector to take up Transition Engineering training. Development of Incentives or penalties can be informed by Agricultural Transition Engineering to achieve economically effective downshifting of fertilizer use, water consumption, and ruminant stock numbers.
Downshifting industrial agriculture practices that generate methane and NOx GHG emissions will require Transition Engineering of food supply chains to ensure that food waste is eliminated and that all people have access to adequate nutrition.
The Transition Engineering ethos of preventing what is preventable leads engineers to work on wicked problems that have not previously been the purview of engineering.
Engineers can ensure that manufacturing and distribution of birth control products fits with cultures, customs and social sensibilities for people in all countries.
Engineers will develop micro communications, monitoring and sensing technologies that enable women to take on roles as biocapacity monitors, and being foremost in the decision-making about expenditure of international carbon remissions on regeneration in their local environments and farms.
Transition Engineering of weapons production to downshift the production of small firearms and military ordinance is essential to reducing the instability that often accompanies high birth rates in refugee and displaced populations.
 James Hanson, Storms of my Grandchildren, 2009, Bloomsbury, New York
Join us for the Final Session of the Hutton Series on Climate Change
Our expert speakers from sessions 1 to 5 will join us to debate and finalise the ten key priorities, actions and innovations to mitigate climate crisis. Professor John Ludden will present themes and findings from the first five sessions, which our speakers will consider in a series of debates chaired by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer. This session will be interactive, with audience votes and comments forming a vital part of the final series report, which will be submitted to COP26.
Have you secured your free spot yet? You can register here ahead of 29 June.