The most recent IPCC report renews the stark reminder for business leaders that all auxiliary priorities must be considered in tow with climate considerations. The report highlights the imperatives of net-zero transitions and adaptation to mitigate the climate risks. In fact, there are several critical facts related to climate change that engineering leaders must be aware of today to be prepared for the future. They include:

Our immediate actions which determine the impact of future risks

Achieving net-zero emissions is the only way to halt further global warming. However, the process is complex, onerous, and extensive leading to unavoidable risks in the near future. However, if the target of mitigating global warming to 1.5 Cabove pre-industrial levels is met, there can be substantial reductions to projected damages and losses. Ultimately, it is our immediate action that determines the extent of impact in the future. For engineering leaders, the goal will be adaptation in tow with mitigation.

Assessment tools are inconsistent and may undermine the impact

For business leaders, gauging the impact of climate change on their businesses depends on established statistical models that measure the losses, damages, and the resultant economic impact. However, such economic models are still in nascent stages and fraught with inconsistent results and numbers. Experts instead predict that the global aggregate of economic damages is likely to increase with global warming in non-linear patterns, with significant regional differences, and will likely be higher than the model's estimate.

Building for resilience will be the key

From an engineer’s perspective, designing infrastructure for resilience will be a key factor in combating the immediate risks of climate change. This includes protecting basic amenities like buildings, electricity, and water supply in case of environmental catastrophes. From a planning perspective, common overarching priorities should include building underground electrical lines, avoiding building residences on flood plains, and investing in smart grid research and development. From an execution point of view, using environmentally friendly materials, reducing waste, and emphasizing renewables will be critical.

Quick measures to mitigate short-term impacts are a reality

Since the impact of climate change will be inevitable in the near future, the focus must shift to mitigation for the short-term, until net-zero emissions can be achieved. One such method is solar geoengineering, or solar radiation management to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the earth’s surface thereby cooling the planet. This involves releasing reflective aerosols in the upper atmosphere to deflect sunlight and control temperature. However, this is not a replacement for reducing emissions and should only be used as a stopgap measure until a more permanent solution can be achieved.