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Engineering and Climate Change

Causes of Climate change:


The climate on earth follows a natural pattern, which is mainly dependent upon natural cyclic changes in the environmental conditions, such as, day-night cycle caused by the earth’s axial rotation, annual seasons caused by global tilt etc. However, a strict ecological balance through a combination of contributions by the vegetation on earth, the marine as well as terrestrial insects, flora and fauna, the polar icecaps, helps to keep disciplined uniformity in these cyclic changes. But the natural ecological balance is very fragile and the balance can tilt from disciplined uniformity to arbitrariness over some time, in case changes are thrust upon those basic parameters which contribute to the ecological balance.


Some of the causes for such change are, presence of heat-absorbing gases in the environment in higher proportion due to industrial exhausts, change in the earth’s reflecting index (Albedo) due to any changes in areas under vegetation, polar ice, barren desert etc., change in temperature of ocean water due to higher absorption of solar energy or by high-temperature industrial effluents discharged into the ocean. These changes can aggravate over a period and may bring in radically changed patterns of rainfall, changes in average and peak winter temperatures and summer temperatures, which, in short, are known as climate changes.


In recent times, such changes in the basic parameters cited above, have taken place, mainly due to two reasons. One is, increase in the human population and the second is the change in lifestyle of human beings. It is sadly coming to light, that while the marine and terrestrial flora and fauna are responsible for maintaining a balanced and stable climate it is the human population that is responsible for shattering the balance and bringing about climate changes. Naturally, it is the responsibility of humans to try and restore the balance and save the earth from the evolutionary process of climate change from eventually precipitating into a cataclysmic disaster.


Reversing the climate change


The basic causes for climate change elaborated above, namely human population rise and change in human lifestyle can neither be arrested nor can be reversed. Hence the only possible way out is to try and reduce the effect of these on the climate and more precisely on those basic parameters which are responsible for maintaining the ecological balance.


Role of Engineering in arresting climate change


Around the years 1400 AD the Industrial revolution occurred in Europe and it traversed the globe in no time. In the beginning, the revolution was slow, haphazard and unstructured. The engineering aspect of the Industrial revolution brought in the inventions improved processes and above all, the controlled use of energy which was not thought of in the past. The initial evolution of engineering did not follow structured rules, mainly due to ignorance. Total disregard to environmental factors brought in climatic changes which were rightly attributed to the industries and the engineering practices used therein. Projections of impending disaster and climatic collapse set the think tanks rolling and soon the same Engineering that had caused the climatic disaster started working upon finding the solutions to arrest the climatic changes and to save the earth from impending climatic disasters.


Illustrations of the role of Engineering in arresting climate change:


Engineering is a very broad term applied to the industrial planning, erection, manufacturing, disposal processes. It is in reality a fusion of basic branches such as Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Petrochemical Engineering, Computer Engineering and many other specialisations which are aligned for a common cause. Engineering is a tool. In the hands of a demon, it can do demonic destruction and in the hands of a saint, it can do substantial construction work.


  • Use of Engineering for change in the Energy generation process: Electrical energy is the most popular and versatile form of energy used globally. Fossil fuel-based plants are widely used to generate electrical energy using transformational processes. These processes generated solid particulate emitted in the air, rise in ocean temperatures due to effluents, rise in carbon and Sulphur content in the atmosphere. Modern Engineering innovations have helped to slowly show a divergence path from fossil fuel-based electrical generation to solar, hydro and nuclear-based electricity generation processes which reduce the emissions mentioned above thereby reducing the consequential eco unbalance.


  • Improvement in fossil fuel energy generation processes: It is not possible to eliminate the fossil fuel-based energy generation processes due to their wider application, Engineering innovations have brought out solutions such as Flue gas desulphurise (FGD), Electrostatic precipitators, efficient cooling tower systems, Effluent treatment plants etc., which have effectively curbed disturbance to climate change parameters.


  • Genetically Engineered food grains: Increased population requires a higher amount of food generation, which means, if conventional methods are used, more land will have to be tilled, after deforestation. Genetic engineering has come to the rescue and genetically engineered food grains have been produced which ensure a large amount of food production yield per acre of tilled land. Further, advances in Agricultural Engineering and Irrigation Engineering have helped in changing the cropping pattern and to get crops from the soil, year-round with due regards to soil richness.


  • Relocation of flora and fauna: Vast wastelands hitherto deprived of water have been brought under irrigation projects and afforestation has been done in these areas. Advanced Biological engineering has helped to relocate the displaced flora and fauna to these new locations which help to maintain the ecological balance.


Conclusion:


Each branch of Engineering can be considered a silo that can grow up sky-high in the specialisation. However, it is the ingenuity of the human mind which can bring about the fusion of various branches of engineering in a focused manner to reverse the ill effects of climate change in these modern times.

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