Member’s Corner is a place for engineers to share their professional insights with other OSPE members. Every month, OSPE will publish a member written blog post on a pertinent issue in the engineering community. As a reader, you can engage in meaningful conversation with fellow OSPE members. The content of these blog posts are the viewpoints of the authors.
By Geoff Sheffin, P.Eng., C.Eng
Why target engineers?
First, we have got to a stage where what the scientists had started to tell us 40 years ago has now become an overwhelming majority view. There are virtually no scientists who are in any way involved in this arena that do not agree with the premise that climate change is due to human activity, and it is getting worse.
Progressively we are all becoming more and more impacted by what is happening. We still have many climate change deniers, but more and more people see that this is a real and pressing issue.
Why Engineers and why OSPE? My view is simple. There is not a single thing on this planet which we need and use within our modern societies that has not had the hand of an engineer in it – somehow – somewhere. Globally they may not be registered “Professionals” but engineers none the less. If it exists and does not come about naturally then there has been an engineering input to put it in place. So, if engineers have had a hand in everything – who better to help move solutions forward and help develop the new things we need to do to save ourselves and our planet?
Where / how do we start to engage the Engineers?
There are about 160,000 Professional Engineers in Canada with about 80,000 of those in Ontario. OSPE represents only a small proportion of the Ontario Engineers (probably less than 20,000) but, it is the advocacy arm and thereby has reach. We need to start somewhere. Who am I? I am a Professional Engineer registered in Ontario and a Chartered Engineer (the European designation). My passion is to find ways to move us globally towards solutions. I am deeply interested and committed to helping find solutions. We have gone from “global warming” to “climate change” and are now more commonly talking about “climate crisis”. We will soon be talking about “climate emergency”.
Within the Engineering community we will have supporters and deniers. I think the deniers are reducing in numbers as the evidence becomes more compelling. There will also be many engineers that are compromised by virtue of how they earn their living. If they work in fossil fuel areas or in industries where a high amount of CO2 is the outcome of the process. They are compromised or conflicted, they are in a dichotomy. This does not prevent them from moving forward in some way or another. No matter how small the incremental contribution. Every little is a little bit more.
For us to win this “war” we all need to be engaged.
Data sources and readers beware!
Information is critical to managing our approaches to all problems. With what is best described as “open media” we have a vast array of sources from which to get information. The internet and social media platforms are a some of many vehicles that provide information from often unknown and unverifiable sources.
Equally, there are many sources that are reputable and honest. But even with these – one needs to be informed about the source and the author. It is also very important to note if these sources have a political bias – and if so, what is it?
Who owns the media is another critical question. Then, the next question becomes does the owner interfere or are they “hands off” allowing for open and less biased communication?
Some observations are noted below with a selection of possible sources.
- Science – there are a great many of these published sources that carry the title of “Science” in some form or other. They are not all equal. If you are using one as a reference or for verification – check who is the author and are they making and independent contribution to a “free and unbiased” publication. It is important to remember that a scientist develops and delivers theoretical and practical knowledge developed mostly from their research. The findings of one scientist is very valuable BUT only becomes really useful when it has been peer reviewed by many knowledgeable scientists in the field AND consensus has emerged.
- Nature – again – there are many of these publications and the same applies as for science above. Often the peer review input is meaningful but not usually as stringent as the science approach.
- BBC World Media – while owned by the UK government (it is designated as a “Crown Chartered Corporation”) – it continuously proves to be independent and as unbiased as possible.
- The New York Times – while family owned (and apparently for many years) it is highly regarded as an independent media source.
- The Guardian – founded as a media group under the Scott Trust and based in England (with international portions). It has a long-documented history of independence even though its political slant could be construed as just left of centre.
- The Washington Post – while now owned by Nash Holdings (a Jeff Bezos company) it still maintains a strong independent basis for its existence. It is one of a very few US newspapers that maintains numerous bureau offices throughout the world. This global reach gives it more credibility.
- The Wall Street Journal – regarded as a “newspaper of record” for business and financial matters.
- Financial Times – Another UK paper of repute. It has a slant to free markets, free trade and free liberalism.
- Globe and Mail – while owned by the Woodbridge Company (a Thompson organisation) it is widely regarded as Canada’s newspaper of record.
- Reuters – again a Thompson company – but this has had a climate sceptics slant to its editorials. That may by now have subsided as the crisis has become more evident
- Associated Press – an American non-profit media organisation with a strong reputation for independence and veracity. Almost 250 news bureaus in almost 100 countries make it a global source of news reporting. It is a cooperative unincorporated association. This is both good and bad. Good = independence, Bad = not sure if the item has had a slant.
- Wikipedia – for 20 years it has evolved as the world’s largest free encyclopedia. Generally, highly regarded for its integrity and the fact that it goes to a lot of trouble to verify its sources before they are allowed to upload.
- “Our World in Data” an independent source of a vast array of data. Constantly updated and operates out of Oxford University in England. It consistently demonstrates to me that it is reliable.
With all these sources and many others – it is critical to know who the author is each time.
So, we have a reason, and we can source data, then what are we trying to cover?
There is nothing that is not on the table. After all – the climate crisis has an impact on everybody in many ways. And mostly not good.
Watch for OSPE II “Climate Crisis – Solutions in Action”. The narrative in OSPE II will provide some commentary on the implications of cradle to grave cost of being green. Future topics in this series will cover numerous subjects, including the cost of being green, hydro electric power, nuclear power and SMR’s, hydrogen – grey, blue, turquoise and green and more.
Remember Movers make things happen – everyone else is a spectator. So, be a Mover.