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In the 1990 World day of peace message, Pope John Paul the second stated, “The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations”. As an engineer, I believe that this quote is extremely powerful as it emphasizes the necessity to promote sustainability and protect the earth and its resources from the destruction caused by man which is a severe issue faced in the 21st Century. A significant contributor to the destruction of the planet Earth is climate change. Climate change is attributed to a rise in global warming which is a consequence of the increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Engineering-enabled Industries play a large role in the contribution of GHGs. The article ‘Climate Change and Professional Responsibility: A Declaration of Helsinki for Engineers’ by Lawlor and Morley argues that a Declaration of Climate Action (similar to the Declaration of Helsinki) should be developed and adopted by professional engineering industries to abate climate change. This means introducing a strict, sanctioned, professional and self-regulating code of ethics that goes hand in hand with existing laws and code of ethics and that holds engineers responsible and accountable for their impact on climate change and the solution to reduce It. Owing to the article’s in-depth and interesting analysis from the engagement of both academic literature and direct discussion with engineers through the Royal Academy of Engineering and Engineers Without Borders conferences, I found myself in strong agreement with the ideas and augments presented by Lawlor and Morley.
As engineers, we can benefit society but also harm it significantly. Doctors have a comparable ability and responsibility as engineers, hence the Declaration of Helsinki was introduced which is a code of ethics that governs human experimentation and research that prevents humans from being ill-treated. Likewise, Lawlor and Morley argue that applying a similar approach in engineering specially targeted at strictly governing GHG emissions will prevent climate change from increasing. With this compulsory and firm code of ethics would be sanctions that act as consequences if the “Declaration” ought to be violated (for example receiving a warning or having one charted position suspended). Additionally, the article argues that engineering institutions can combat climate challenges as they have the intellectual knowledge of the problem-causing systems and can work on reducing its effect through altering and innovative engineering practices and technologies and ethics codes already exist within the profession and engineers carry a responsibility to work in the best interest of the public and environment. Lastly, engineers have a well-respected opinion in society which enables them to use this to spread awareness and create change. With the success of the Declaration of Helsinki in mind and the arguments presented for the capability of engineers, I think that applying a stricter code of ethics that goes beyond the law will impact engineering going forward by introducing new concepts, innovations, and also, ethics would be deemed more important.
Conversely, through direct engagement at engineering conferences many objections arose from the proposal of this idea. I will highlight the three main objections that stirred controversy in me as well while reading the article. Firstly, it was argued that implementing a strict code of conduct was an unoriginal and unexciting idea as ethical codes and governments regulations such as carbon tax exist. It is often unlikely for such an idea to be adopted if there are general disinterest and no enthusiasm. However, in agreement with Lawlor and Morley, this idea is original as it focuses directly on the engineering discipline to create its own laws and codes specifically aimed at reducing GHG emissions and ensuring that it is not a responsibility that engineers should take but must take. Putting the power to be the solution in the creator’s hand will allow the reduction of GHG emissions and engineers to lead in global challenges. I think that it will challenge the work ethic and ideas of engineers that will encourage innovative, creative, and unconventional thinking. Additionally, it was found that engineers believed the idea was inapplicable to their branch of engineering. An example arose between a process engineer and audio engineer, where the former contributes directly to GHG emissions and the latter does not. Nonetheless, in the process of creation or the product itself, it will likely cause pollution. It is, therefore, the engineers’ job to ensure that it will have the least impact on the environment. The article draws attention to the Declaration of Helsinki which does not apply to all doctors but was still implemented, therefore, it declaration should not be seen as a threat but rather put into place as for regulation purposes. As a citizen of this world, we each have the responsibility to combat this global issue and as engineers, I believe we should all be excited and passionate about being part of the solution and being in the position of leadership.
Furthermore, many engineers acknowledge but fail to comprehend their significant impact on climate change as they continue to emit large amounts of GHGs. According to Nasa’s Global Climate Change, climate change can be defined as a long-term transformation in the average weather patterns that define the planet’s global and local climates. The evidence of climate change is observed through the atmospheric rise of temperature, ice caps melting and rise in sea level, warming of the oceans, reduction in snow cover, acidification of oceans, and extreme weather such as flooding and droughts. Owing to the following, Lawlor and Morley highlight that climate change is anticipated to increase diseases, injuries, and fatalities, decrease in food security lead to under-nutrition and starvation, increase economic decay and poverty, destroy habitats and increase displacement, and indirectly cause violent conflict.
Consequently, I believe that this is a frightening reality and requires serious attention from engineers as they play a vital role in the escalation of climate change. Moreover, other arguments that presented itself were the implementation of the idea would be restricting, harsh, and not strict enough. Counter arguably, if institutions take it as a legal and professional requirement it ought to restrict engineers from doing as they please, cause behavioral changes in engineering practices and increase efforts to fight climate change. Each objection was counteracted with a reasonable explanation and great examples that assisted in persuading the reader to agree with Lawlor and Morley.
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