Engineers and climate change: Inaugural Hyatt lecturer Wayne Clough says we must design and build for a new paradigm

Friday, March 13, 2015

Georgia Tech President Emeritus Wayne Clough will talk about engineers’ responsibility to plan for climate change in the first-ever Hyatt Distinguished Alumni Leadership Lecture March 24.

Clough, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Tech, says he knows climate change can be a controversial subject. But his message is that engineers can’t ignore the potential impacts and they shouldn’t stand aside and let others make decisions for them.

“If engineers are doing their jobs, they are thinking about how their designs relate to the future, and often long into the future,” Clough said. “They have a stake in the effects of climate change, both from the point of view of mitigation or slowing its potential effects, and adaptation, designing to help protect society from the effects that will occur. And because there is no simple solution, engineers need to understand and become articulate about the issues.”

Clough’s lecture will reflect his tenure as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, where he had the opportunity to spend time with scientists and see first hand the large-scale changes occurring in natural systems. He’ll also use his background as an engineer who has been asked to design for the effects of climate change and to help create national public policy working on the National Science Board and with the National Academy of Engineers.

The speech marks the beginning of a semi-annual lecture series in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering supported by alumnus Kenneth Hyatt, B.S. 1962. Clough will speak at 4:30 p.m. in the building that carries his name, the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons. (Space is limited; reserve a seat now.)

“This [speech is] important, because it’s my alma mater, it’s my home department,” Clough said. “I believe Ken Hyatt has supported this lecture series in the hopes speakers will be thought provoking, and I hope not to disappoint.”

Wayne Clough retired as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in the fall. He continues to serve as secretary emeritus, working on several books. He continues to write about issues like climate change and the future of education. And he will be working part time at Georgia Tech, teaching, advising and conducting public outreach activities.