Topic 1: Existantial risks for sustainability

In this rapidly changing world, we all aspire to feel safe and secure. However, for all of us, there are several threats which are framed  as Planet (Climate change, biodiversity loss, metoerites, volcanoes, mega earthquakes), People (Pandemics, clean air, water scarcity, waste pollution, providing food security),  Prosperity (threats of AI, unstainable growth, widening inequalities) and Peace (wars, nuclear annihilation) that takes us away from living safe and secure.

Humanity is now the largest driving force of change on the planet. Humanity have reached eight billion people, and it has effect on development. As the living standards continue to raise, engineers find themselves under increasing pressure to meet unlimited demands of humanity with limited sources of the earth.  In this new reality, development must be able to navigate complexity. For sustainability, we should take care of everybody, not just us, but our environment and the people who come after us. This means respecting the highest ethical values  and ensuring equal participation of women and men and integrates the gender dimension into the content of the development. Coping with the challenges are not an easy task. We want sustainability and safety, we want privacy and security, we want economic growth and sustainability. We want all of these things at the same time. Sustainable Engineering, as a practice, places a strong emphasis on the design, development, and improvement of engineering systems, processes, and products with minimum environmental impact and maximum social and economic benefits. It is crucial that we answer the questions: How can we deliver positive impact in the real economy.

Source: Image credit: Greame MacKay

The Earth is believed to have come into existence roughly 4.5 billion years ago. Homo sapiens, the scientific name for modern humans, have been on the planet for about 200,000 years. However, human activities have had a negative impact on the environment, such as deforestation, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction, and overexploitation of resources.

Throughout Earth’s long history, it has experienced natural climate fluctuations, including ice ages, droughts, and abrupt shifts between warm and cool periods. However, the current climate change we are witnessing is largely attributed to the anthropogenic, or human-caused, effect. Unlike the historical natural climate variations, this contemporary change is primarily driven by human activities. The main reason of current climate change is Industrial evaluation. The rapid industrial and technological advancements of the Anthropocene era have led to increased greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and other activities that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming and significant alterations to our planet’s climate patterns. According to scientific data from the industrial evolution, the temperature of earth has been increased by 1 °C. There is a strong correspondence between temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere observed during the glacial cycles of the past several hundred thousand years.  When the carbon dioxide concentration goes up, temperature goes up. The  amount of carbon particles on the earth now it is around 421 ppm which is the same 30000000 years ago. In recent years, world leaders have stressed the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century. That’s because the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that crossing the 1.5°C threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change impacts, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.

Global warming is very very visible. A catastrophic die-off of emperor penguin chicks has been observed in the Antarctic, with up to 10,000 young birds estimated to have been killed.

The sea-ice underneath the chicks melted and broke apart before they could develop the waterproof feathers needed to swim in the ocean.

The birds most likely drowned or froze to death.

Source: Copernicus Sentinel-2

Source: Copernicus Sentinel-2

Researchers discovered harvests began shifting dramatically earlier during the latter half of the 20th century. These shifts were caused by changes in the connection between climate and harvest timing. While earlier harvests from 1600 to 1980 occurred in years with warmer and drier conditions during spring and summer, from 1981 to 2007 warming attributed to climate change resulted in earlier harvests even in years without drought.

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Many dangerous feedback loops make climate action more urgent: Existential risks reinforce each other; they are transgressional in terms if district and geography. More specifically, developing nations experienced deaths rates more than four times higher than developed ones regarding to environmental issues. It triggers the migration of nations from south to north and from east to west. They have tipping point; The impact of climate change and large-scale environmental hazards is intensifying and taking a growing toll on economies and livelihoods. A number of tipping points in climate change will soon be or are already being reached, triggering feedback loops with catastrophic consequences for life on Earth. Technology overlap with this risks. This is the time of crisis and of hope. 


The impact of climate change and large-scale environmental hazards is intensifying and taking a growing toll on economies and livelihoods. For this reason,  in 2015 the leaders of the world came together to agree on a promise that over the next 15 years, the lives of billions of people are going to get better with no one left behind.  That promise is sustainable development goals, the SDGs.