9 November 2022

Climate change: Roles and responsibilities of engineers and citizens toward industry park

Ir. Dr Chong Kok Hing

The adverse impacts of climate change

Climate change was first discussed by Arrhenius (1896), who predicted that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could impact the global surface temperature via the greenhouse effect. There are many debates about the contribution of greenhouse gases (GHG) that transpires between humans and nature. The major GHG resulting from human activities are Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Industrial gases: Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). The general common ground was that since the industrial revolution, human activities have contributed much toward the recent decades’ GHG that contributed to climate change. The adverse impacts of climate change on marine mammals (Gulland et al. 2022), building energy consumption (Campagna & Fiorito 2022), biodiversity (Habibullah et al. 2022), crop production (Awaad 2022), and river ecosystem (Siddha & Sahu 2022) are identified. Global warming is one of the significant environmental issues of climate change. Over the last 100 years, the global average temperature rose by 0.8, two-thirds of which occurred over the previous three decades. If global warming persists, the global temperature will likely rise even further, that is between 1.5 to 6.1  within the 21st century (Wikipedia 2022). Based on this statistic, it is clear that global energy demand is projected to increase by 60% in the next 25-30 year as developing countries industrialise and rich countries continue to guzzle power.

The possible adverse impacts of an industrial park

Industry park is identified to have contributed to the adverse impact of climate change. Scientific data indicate the rise of atmospheric concentration of GHG from the industrial era (Administration) 2021; Bernhard Bereiter, Sarah Eggleston, Jochen Schmitt, Christoph Nehrbass-Ahles, Thomas F. Stocker, Hubertus Fischer 2015; NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) 2021; Organisation 2022). A typical industrial park leaves an adverse impact on air and water pollution and contributes towards GHG emissions, land contamination, over-extraction of resources, labour abuses and social disruption.

Eco-industrial park

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) provides an international framework that defines an industrial park’s basic requirements and performance criteria to qualify as an Eco-Industrial Park (EIP). EIP can be defined as industrial areas that promote cross-industry and community collaboration for common benefits related to economic, social, and environmental performance. Several countries exemplify EIP, for example, the Ulsan Mipo and the Onsan Industrial Park in South Korea and the Kawasaki Synergy Network in Japan.

The gap in implementing EIP in developing countries

In 2014, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders introduced the “Circular Economy” concept to promote economic and social gains. However, many of the APEC member economies’ industrial parks still lack good practices for environmentally sound growth. This claim is supported by the recent study by UNIDO assessing 50 industrial parks in eight economies against the International Framework for Eco-Industrial Parks.

The report indicated that energy, local community outreach, environmental and park management and monitoring, waste and material use, climate change and natural environment have the lowest compliance. Low compliance with specific prerequisites and performance indicators under park management, economic, environmental, and social performance indicates a need by the industrial park for technical assistance. This directly led to unsustainable resource utilisation and pollution issues.

Roles and responsibilities of engineers and citizens in climate change

The United Kingdom Engineering Council provides its registered engineers and technicians with six principles that contribute to sustainable development, namely to contribute to building a sustainable society, present and future; to apply professional and responsible judgment and to take a leadership role; to do more than just comply with legislation and codes; to use resources efficiently and effectively; to seek multiple views to solve sustainable challenges, and to manage risk to minimize the adverse impact to people and the environment.

Readers may download the International Framework for Eco-Industrial Parks provided by UNIDO for more information on the EIP.

If you are not an engineer, is there a role you can play in mitigating the impact of global warming? Yes. By implementing Dr Prasad Modak’s Concept of Circularity which is Rethink, Refuse. Reduce, Re-design, Reuse, Repair, Refurbish, Renovate, Recycle, Recover, Return and Remanufacture.

Benefits of the implementation of the circular economy concept

With the implementation of the circular economy concept, various businesses could reap the advantages of becoming more competitive (resource efficiency, reduced waste, innovation); attracting investors (increased recognition and rising expectation for transparency); responding to pressure from across the supply chain (meet codes of conduct and adapt to changing policies) and increase resilience against external shocks i.e. pandemic, environmental degradation, climate change etc.

Ir. Dr Chong Kok Hing is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Science. With research interests in the file of thermal fluids, biomass, renewable energy, sustainable energy management, development and performance of biomass combustion, Dr Chong is contactable at kchong@swinburne.edu.my