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Industry Adapts to Global Warming

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

For many of us who came of age in the late 60s and early 70s, Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” was one of the anthems of our generation. Performed by the legendary but short-lived Buffalo Springfield band, the song perfectly captured the stress and anxiety of those turbulent times.

While that era is long gone, the song’s lyrics continue to capture the angst of new generations: “There’s something happening here, But what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Today, that “something” includes climate change, as countries around the world grapple with a warming world. The auto industry (the focus of this issue of ME) is front and center in that new paradigm.

As a result, vehicle electrification mandates around the world are transforming the auto industry. As our two automotive features in this issue explain, automakers are spending billions of dollars to develop electric vehicles (EVs) that will gradually replace internal combustion engines (ICE). Automotive parts suppliers are learning how to pivot to this new reality. R&D into vehicle electrification continues to develop entirely new parts and systems for drive trains that may not resemble those powered by ICE.

But that’s only part of the climate change puzzle. An August report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), a body of the United Nations that provides objective scientific information relevant to understanding human-induced climate change, made headlines around the world by concluding that climate models are being validated, the impacts are occurring at a faster pace than previously projected, these impacts are global, and the probability of high-impact events—such as the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheets—is increasing. Rich Sorkin, CEO of climate analytics provider Jupiter Intelligence, said that climate change will have a profound effect on capital planning and operations in the engineering industry, including:

--No portion of the globe will be spared climate change impacts.

--While there are large variations in the degree of confidence in the frequency and severity of impacts regionally, levels of confidence are increasing.

--Oceans play a key role in the vast majority of climate system heating. There is a threat to ocean ecosystems and circulations associated with ocean heating. Sorkin notes that these conditions may persist for centuries or longer.

--Impacts from urban heat islands will continue to exacerbate periods of extreme heat.

--Sea level rise is “irreversible” and “will remain elevated for thousands of years,” according to the IPPC report.

So, as the song says, something’s happening here and it is becoming more clear what that something is. We will be dealing with the effects of climate change for many years to come, and it’s time to start working on how we can mitigate those effects, both in business and society.

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