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Climate change: Do we have the skills to tackle it?
Question
By working more closely with schools, colleges, and universities, can industry prioritise reskilling​ and upskilling​ the current workforce? How do we ensure future engineers​ have the right skills to address climate change? Comment below to share your thoughts! You can also learn more in our recent IET skills for net zero and a green recovery 2020 survey.
14 Replies
Rob Eagle
146 Posts
It is all a total waste of time and money, our contribution to climate change is so small on a global scale, any change on our part will have no effect whatsoever globally.
Simon Barker
839 Posts
Rob Eagle:
It is all a total waste of time and money, our contribution to climate change is so small on a global scale, any change on our part will have no effect whatsoever globally.

But if everybody takes that attitude, then nobody will do anything.

Rob Eagle
146 Posts
Simon, I think you'll find that the big polluters, i.e. China and India amongst many others, will do nothing, making our effort worthless. 
So, basically, I am not in favour of spending billions in tax payers money and impoverishing ourselves for no good quantifiable reason.
Andy Millar
1763 Posts
  1. The IET is a global organisation, not a UK organisation. "We" are everybody in the world.
  2. Even if we do take a UK-Centric view, the UK researches and develop technologies that are used world wide.
  3. And if we want to be really selfish and mercenary progressing to e.g. carbon neutral therefore provides a lot of work for UK engineers. (Not that that's the point, at least as far as I'm concerned.)
  4. As Simon says.
  5. Personally (having just seen comments on another thread on this forum re wind power) I find it very frustrating when a profession that is supposed to be based around innovation and development seems obsessed with rubbishing advances in technology. Fortunately I suspect the people who post in these forums are not those who are actually leading the engineering profession, which is why they feel the need to post here. And fortunately again the views expressed on these forums (including the views expressed in this post I'm writing now) have no influence on anything at all - it's a bit sad that that's the one cheering point I find in these types of discussions. 
Rob Eagle
146 Posts
There is no point in spending billions in tax payers money for a vanity project to bolster the standing of any current incumbent if the major polluters are not going to cut their emissions.  I know it all sound so very righteous, which seems to be the current fad, and I understand people thinking it is the right thing to do but our contribution to global pollution is so small we will make no difference globally and we will just impoverish ourselves in the process.
Furthermore, engineering is not about political correctness, you don’t have to be politically correct to be a good engineer.
Zoomup
2277 Posts
The climate has always "changed" over millions of years without human intervention for most of the time. Now if you were to talk about pollution then I might be interested, but human "climate change" no.

Z.
Simon Barker
839 Posts
The simple solution, then, is not to spend billions of taxpayers money.

If somebody is polluting, tell them to stop polluting.  Cost to the taxpayer - negligible.  If we want more wind power and less gas, tax gas more and wind less - the net cost to the taxpayer can be zero if you wish.  If we don't like plastic bags, tax them and don't tax paper ones. Cost to the taxpayer - negligible (or even negative).  And so on.

All too often, people are desperately looking for excuses not to solve problems.  Or simply denying that there is a problem.

We're supposed to be engineers.  Engineers find solutions to problems.  That's what they are for.  Saying "it's all too hard" doesn't make any progress, ever.
Rob Eagle
146 Posts
It’s not too hard, it’s pointless.  Unless the seriously big polluters change then there is absolutely no point in us doing so.  We are a minuscule island on the planet, why impoverish ourselves for some virtuous cause that will, globally, make absolutely no difference whatsoever, it is absolute madness but appeals to the virtuous fools following the current fad.
Oh, and by the way I do not subscribe to the tax everything policy, it generally disproportionately disadvantages the less well off.
Lisa Miles
1273 Posts
Can we bring this discussion back to the OP's questions please as we're straying off topic. 😉

The questions asked are 'Can industry prioritise reskilling​ and upskilling​ the current workforce?' and 'How do we ensure future engineers​ have the right skills to address climate change?'



 
Rob Eagle
146 Posts
I think I am quite on topic, I am suggesting that we shouldn't be spending tax payers money on unachievable or pointless campaigns.  Leave it to the private sector and market forces - far more effective.  A fair point of view I think.
Evanna Gale
78 Posts
I see your point Rob Eagle‍, but the question is broader than government intervention. Companies are always working to meet environmental goals for all sorts of reasons - compliance, market expectations, cost-saving, and sometimes for ethical reasons - yet concerns exist that the workforce doesn't have the skills. What do you think the industry could be doing to upskill the workforce? 
Simon Barker
839 Posts
Rob Eagle:
I think I am quite on topic, I am suggesting that we shouldn't be spending tax payers money on unachievable or pointless campaigns.  Leave it to the private sector and market forces - far more effective.  A fair point of view I think.

Market forces don't solve a whole class of problems.  Pollution is one of those problems.

Market forces didn't encourage the phasing out of single-use plastic bags.  It costs nothing to them if the disposable plastic bag they have given you is dumped and left to litter the countryside or blow into the sea.  So they see no benefit in solving it.  The government chose to add a charge on single-use bags, and their use dropped dramatically.

Market forces won't stop factories from polluting the air, or rivers.  It's cheaper to dump your waste into the environment than to pay somebody to take it away.  That's why in the 19th century, many rivers were dead and the air was polluted.  It took government action to clean that up.

And the thing is, much of this doesn't actually involve spending large amounts of taxpayer's money.

Occasionally, the government does subsidize early adopters of new technologies.  So, for example, you currently get a discount if you buy an electric car.  But there's nothing "unachievable" about electric cars.  The numbers of them being bought every year keep going up.  I expect the government to phase out the subsidies before long.

Simon Barker
839 Posts
Rob Eagle:
It’s not too hard, it’s pointless.  Unless the seriously big polluters change then there is absolutely no point in us doing so.  We are a minuscule island on the planet, why impoverish ourselves for some virtuous cause that will, globally, make absolutely no difference whatsoever, it is absolute madness but appeals to the virtuous fools following the current fad.
Oh, and by the way I do not subscribe to the tax everything policy, it generally disproportionately disadvantages the less well off.

We're not that small - we're big enough to be in the G7.

Roger Bryant
288 Posts
As we are looking for an engineering solution to this we first need to define the problem. There are three things mentioned in the OP:

i) Climate Change

ii) Net Zero

iii) Green Recovery

What are they and what are the problems we are trying to solve?

i) Climate Change has happened, is happening and will continue to happen. Man’s influence on it is at best dubious. The IPCC noted the pause and the deviation from the models in AR5. I am awaiting to see how they deal with this in AR6.



Most of the problems were discussed in this thread which was then closed by the moderators:

https://communities.theiet.org/discussions/viewtopic/807/24813

A lot of the detail, which hasn’t changed much, is here:

https://communities.theiet.org/discussions/viewtopic/807/24813#p126994

ii) Net Zero is a fairly meaningless phrase but sounds good. It was also discussed in the above thread:

https://communities.theiet.org/discussions/viewtopic/807/24813#p125632

What does CO2 Neutral mean?
1) Don’t burn anything that contains carbon?
2) Burn things containing carbon and then stick the carbon back in the ground somehow?
3) Burn things containing carbon and buy carbon credits (indulgences)?

The technology for 2) does not exist in  an industrial form yet and probably won’t by 2050. It might be available by 2100. If the whole world is trying to become CO2 neutral there won’t  be enough carbon credits to go round for 3) to be practical so that leaves 1).

1) means don’t burn coal, oil or gas (possibly wood as well) for:
a) Electricity generation
b) Process heating
c) Domestic heating
d) Transport

iii) Green Recovery, also known in the UK as Build Back Better. What does this mean? What is ‘Green’? It currently seems to mean shift all the pollution to China and then ignore it. In Germany it seems to mean cut down forests to install wind turbines. I guess they can at least burn the wood and get a double ‘Green Boost’. Does it mean cover as much of the landscape as possible with low energy density wind and solar PV generation?

The main problems I see are pollution and overuse of finite resources. Both of these are made worse by the increasing world population. Is the IET looking at these or just virtue signalling about ‘Climate Change’

 

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