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Policy Statement 488 - Greenhouse Gases

 

Approved by the Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee on March 14, 2019
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on April 4, 2019
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on April 28, 2019
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2019

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports public and private sector strategies and efforts to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the planning, design, construction, renewal, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of existing and future infrastructure systems. Such strategies can include:

  • Establishing clear and reasonable targets and time frames for the reduction of GHG emissions;
  • Establishing sustainable, long-term infrastructure development and maintenance plans at federal, state and local levels that promote the reduction of GHG emissions and timely adaptation to the effects of climate change, while maintaining or enhancing natural, economic, and social resources;
  • Improving energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions produced by infrastructure systems over their entire life cycles by making cost-effective use of existing and emerging technologies. The technology improvements should cover all sectors and include both stationary and mobile systems and emission sources;
  • Researching and implementing new technologies, manufacturing processes, and materials to conserve resources to further improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions;
  • Encouraging and facilitating the use of lower GHG emitting energy-generating sources while accounting for the hazards, exposures, risks, and consequences of any energy source;
  • Supporting incentives for the short-term development and implementation of high-efficiency and low- or zero-GHG emitting technologies and cost-effective carbon capture and storage of emissions from large stationary sources that cannot easily be replaced or relocated;
  • Establishing market-based incentives and values for GHG emission reductions to stimulate investment in GHG reduction technologies
  • Exploring the utilization of natural systems (e.g., forests, oceans, and subsurface geologic formations) as GHG sinks via sequestration as well as developing other GHG mitigation technologies (e.g., carbon dioxide capture and conversion through phase shift), including research that explores the potential upstream and downstream effects of these techniques;
  • Encouraging and supporting the exchange of information relating to GHG emissions reductions and mitigation strategies (information clearinghouse, case studies, lessons learned, etc.) in infrastructure development and renewal projects domestically and internationally; and
  • Supporting Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations that reduce GHG emissions from mobile sources. 

Issue

The Paris Agreement of the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international agreement that addresses greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance. The agreement's language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015.

For over a century, scientists have known that certain gases in the atmosphere create a greenhouse effect.  Over the last 10,000 years, the concentration of these natural GHGs has remained relatively stable, maintaining the global average ambient temperature of 14-15°C. (approximately 58 - 60° F.) Without this effect, the global temperature would average around -18°C. (approximately 0° F.) Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, however, the concentration of human caused GHGs has increased markedly, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels. In turn, this increase in concentration will disrupt the climate system, although the specific impacts and the magnitude of these impacts are debated within the social and scientific communities. Furthermore, nearly 29 percent of 2016 GHG emissions were generated by the transportation sector which is the largest share of GHG emissions. GHG emissions from transportation primarily come from vehicle fossil fuel uses. Over 90 percent of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum-based, which includes gasoline and diesel.

It is clear that climate change will create significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. Climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk. Continued increases in GHG concentrations will heighten risks to public health and safety. Delays in action will increase costs and foreclose options to reduce the risk to future generations.

Rationale

Civil engineers are integral to the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, decommissioning, and renewal of infrastructure systems. Civil engineers realize that infrastructure is a major source of GHG emissions, primarily from power generation and transportation. Improving the performance of our infrastructure systems can reduce GHG emissions during their construction and operation. Civil engineers contribute to and support the efforts to achieve reductions in GHG emissions. Doing so fosters progress and creates opportunities for civil engineering leadership to significantly lead in the necessary efforts to reduce GHG emissions.

ASCE Policy Statement 488
First Approved in 2001

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