PEGG Article – JUNE 2007

Climate Change And APEGGA

Regardless of what causes climate change, APEGGA and its membership have roles to play in a planned provincial action plan, says the Association President

Photo by George Lee
The receding of the Columbia Icefield is pointed out by many scientists as an effect of climate change. Members and Albertans, however, remain divided on whether carbon dioxide emissions are causing climate change. APEGGA’s Environment Committee plans consultations with members on the subject, as well as APEGGA’s and members’ roles.


APEGGA can help members, the public and the province in developing and applying a new Climate Change Action Plan in Alberta. However, it’s also incumbent on all APEGGA professionals to take climate change seriously and manage any risks associated with it, the Association’s new President said.“It’s our job to manage risk and the climate appears to be changing. It’s influencing the world around us, and it must also influence the standards we apply to our work,” said APEGGA President John McLeod, P.Eng., in the wake of multi-stakeholder roundtable sessions in Calgary and Edmonton last month.

“Climate change may prove to be a long-term situation created by human activity and carbon dioxide emissions, or it may prove to be a short-term natural variation. But whatever the case and whatever the cause, we as engineers have to manage the risks associated with it,” he said.

Debating the cause has merit within the membership, Mr. McLeod said, although “the potential consequences of doing nothing are too great to ignore.”

Just before The PEGG went to press, the APEGGA Environment Committee decided to conduct member consultations on climate change. The consultations, including a survey in September, will seek opinions on the science of climate change. They will also seek opinions on the Association’s and members’ roles in adapting to climate change, and on informing the province’s Climate Change Action Plan.

Under the banner of Albertans and Climate Change, roundtables brought together representatives of industry, Alberta and municipal governments, the academic community, environmental groups and others. Youth, Aboriginals and various associations were also at the table, on May 22 in Calgary and May 23 in Edmonton.

APEGGA’s representative at the Edmonton roundtable, Lianne Lefsrud, P.Eng., pointed to the effect of melting permafrost on pipelines as a real-world example relevant to the professions. “Many of our members and our permit-holding companies are involved in constructing and operating pipelines through permafrost. These companies understand that to ignore climate change would be expensive and dangerous.”

Ms. Lefsrud, Assistant Director, Professional Practice, is the staff designate for the APEGGA Environment Committee. She said adapting to climate change is already intrinsic in the work APEGGA does, but that APEGGA can do more as the government plan unfolds.

“We can be involved in educating the public, our members and students. Our Continuing Professional Development program includes environmental issues and we can continue with that, to help our members stay current,” she said.

“We also have representatives on the technical councils that create Alberta building codes and standards, who report back to APEGGA through our Practice Standards Committee. Our practice standards and guidelines cover the ethics and professionalism expected of our members. So it’s great that we have that connection between technical and professional standards of practice.”

Ms. Lefsrud views APEGGA as a potential conduit to members for the best practices other groups set in climate change mitigation and adaptation, from green power to carbon capture and sequestration, to bridge and pipeline engineering. It’s also critical that members have the ear of government and other groups, and can communicate their professional concerns clearly.

“That was one of the problems in New Orleans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knew that the levees were insufficient to withstand anything greater than a Category 3 hurricane. But the engineers couldn’t make themselves heard.”

The cost to prevent failure by rebuilding the marshes and upgrading the levees to handle a Category 5 storm was estimated at $10-$50 billion US. On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, causing levees surrounding the city to fail. The flood killed thousands and caused an estimated $200 billion in damages.