Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on March 30, 2021
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 4, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports:
- Government policies that anticipate and prepare for impacts of climate change on the built environment.
- Revisions to engineering design standards, codes, regulations and associated laws that strengthen the sustainability and resiliency of infrastructure at high risk of being affected by climate change.
- Cooperative research among engineers and climate, weather, and life scientists to gain a better understanding of the magnitudes and consequences of future climate extremes and improve projection certainty.
- Research, development, and demonstration to advance recommended civil engineering practices and standards to effectively address climate change impacts.
- Informing practicing engineers, project stakeholders, policy makers, and decision makers about the uncertainty in predicting future climate and the reasons for the uncertainty.
- Identifying critical infrastructure that is most threatened by changing climate in a given region, informing decision makers and the public, and enhancing infrastructure resiliency.
- Informing policy makers that impacts of climate change for historically disadvantaged communities should consider social and economic equity and not be based solely on economic benefit to cost ratio.
There is scientific evidence that the Earth’s climate, both global and regional, is changing and will continue to change. Climate scientists project that there will be substantial increases in temperature, relative with related increases in atmospheric water vapor and in extreme precipitation amounts and intensities in most geographic regions as a result of climate change. However, while there is clear evidence of a changing climate, understanding the significance of climate change at both the temporal and spatial scales as it relates to engineering practice is more difficult. Climate change modeling capabilities continue to improve and represent evolving science and technology.
There is an immediate need for engineers to incorporate resilience to future climate changes into project design criteria. Unfortunately, current practices and rules governing such design criteria do not adequately address concerns associated with climate change. Current engineering design standards, codes, regulations, and associated laws that govern infrastructure are generally not structured to allow design adaptation to address climate change.
Climate change poses a potentially serious impact on worldwide water resources, energy production and use, agriculture, forestry, coastal development and resources, flood control and public infrastructure. Examples include:
- Alterations to surface and groundwater patterns that will require changes to the transportation and waterpower-generation industries, water supply systems, and flood control measures.
- Climate extremes such as floods, droughts, and other significant variations in hydrologic patterns may necessitate changes or additions to flood control measures and public stormwater infrastructure in order to adequately safeguard the public and local ecosystems.
- Changes in frequency and strength of tropical storms that will require changes in coastal protection systems.
- Changes in ocean levels that will require adaptation of infrastructure design in coastal areas, including ports, as well as residential and industrial areas.
- Changes in permafrost conditions that require retrofitting existing foundations and alterations to foundation and roadway designs.
- Changes in critical estuary inflows adversely affecting wetlands and wildlife habitat.
Such impacts could require modified design practices and measures to address the threat of rising sea levels, changes in water supply and quality, potential for outbreak of disease, and damage to critical infrastructure facilities.
Civil engineers are responsible for the planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance of physical infrastructure, including buildings, communication facilities, energy generation and distribution facilities, industrial facilities, transportation networks, water supply and sanitation systems, and water resources facilities and urban water systems. Most infrastructure typically has long service lives (50 to 100 years) and are expected to remain functional, durable and safe during that time. These facilities are exposed to and often are vulnerable to the effects of extreme climate and weather events. Engineering practices and standards associated with these facilities must be revised and enhanced to address climate change and resiliency to ensure they continue to provide low risks of failures and to reduce vulnerability to failure in functionality, durability, and safety over their service lives.
This policy has worldwide application
ASCE Policy Statement 360
First Approved in 1990