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Climate change – an opportunity for engineers?
The context of research and technology development in engineering in the 21st Century is being significantly defined by a greenhouse effect that is causing change in climatic and biological systems. The change is possibly unstoppable and its impact will be exacerbated by an increase in world population of 30 to 40% in the next 40 years, increasing competition for resources as a result of the development of the mega economies of China and India, the realignment of resource use, such as agricultural land being used for biofuels, and community expectations of a more secure and “better” life. The doomsday scenarios suggest that the human and natural systems will collapse under the strain. Notwithstanding the problems of united world-wide action to address the issues of climate change there are opportunities for the engineering community. This paper argues that the greatest opportunities will be in managing and adapting to the changes and that many of the actions to address the challenges will be at the local and regional community level. Engineers will be critical in assisting communities to adapt. One role of engineers is to make sure that the application of science and technology takes place with due cognisance of the social and ethical context.