Climate change: The Tipping Point and the NUMEM Role

“That’s the big question—whether CO2 can move us to the Pliocene,” — Alexey Fedorov of Yale University questioning whether reaching the tipping point in CO2 concentration will be able to send us reeling back into the conditions of the Pliocene age.

Climate change has reached a tipping point. What are the nation’s preeminent engineering leaders doing to stop it?

The MEM mission statement reads:

McCormick’s Master of Engineering Management program combines the management principles of an MBA program with comprehensive, quantitative and analytical tools to prepare experienced technical professionals to solve the complex issues in today’s technical and global companies.

The NUMEM program is designed to give engineers the tools to solve complex issues in today’s technical and global companies. As a graduate program the courses focus on skills and abilities necessary in the work place, but MEM students often have a global mindset when addressing problems, such as the concerns MEM student Victor Moran covered in his piece on wind energy.

A few months ago, NUMEM Director Mark Werwath asked why there are not more engineers in civic leadership? With the global CO2 concentration now at 400 parts per million, rapid climate change has reached a critical condition. “To me, in my mind, the evidence is quite clear that the CO2 is rising and the temperatures and climate will be affected whether we acknowledge it or not,” states Professor Werwath. As the IEEE article linked above states: “The good news is that most educated people now have a sense of what that means—which would not have been the case 10 years ago. The bad news is that the world is more confused than ever regarding what to do about it.”

For those who don’t understand the gravity of the situation, examples of the tragic events and odd occurrences of the last several years indicate how dire the situation has become, such as the impact Hurricane Sandy and last summer’s heat wave in the U.S. Some scientists, however, believe that some of the side effects could be positive, such as exposed land from retreating glaciers being converted to arable land to feed people in need of food.

“The threshold for losing the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets is very close to where we are now. Everything in the geologic record says we’re very close. You don’t need a lot of CO2—you just need a little bit of warming, and it doesn’t matter how you get it.” — Maureen Raymo of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in a First Perspective article.

This article outlines seven tipping points or boundaries environmental scientists have identified as points of no return in saving the environment  With the commercial impact on nuclear power do to Fukushima and incidence like the U.S. opting out of Kyoto Protocol, new threats to environmental safety are on the table.

As some of the foremost engineering managers in the world, what do you think needs to be done to reduce global climate change and avoid the thresholds the earth moves ever closer to? Share your thoughts today.

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