Pragmatic science: the challenge of 2014

16th January 2014


January2014

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Management ,
  • Skills ,
  • Employee engagement ,
  • CPD ,
  • Stakeholder engagement

Author

Maria Grant

Peter Young argues that the biggest challenge facing practitioners in the year ahead is in effectively communicating their environmental knowledge

The rigour of science and engineering can be a burden. Environment professionals, who are almost exclusively scientists and engineers, will feel that burden more in 2014 than ever before. Why? Well, as scientific evidence of the relevance and value of their knowledge builds ever stronger, public interest in their endeavours is at risk of decline.

The key challenge will be responding to an increasing marginalisation by politicians and society looking for quicker resolutions to economic and social woes. Worse still, the scale and long-term commitment needed to tackle environment concerns – climate change, resource security, water scarcity, sustainable construction and decarbonisation – is so extensive that most public leaders find it better to deny the need to change than to enter a proper scientific debate.

So, the challenge in 2014 will be to show how short-term economic and social needs can only be met sensibly by taking the environment into account and, indeed, putting it at the forefront when choosing solutions that will prove sustainable to the benefit of all, especially those who will be on the planet beyond 2050.

However, to do this requires a little less rigour. In tackling the purely emotional response of public-speaking politicians banning phrases such as climate change, for example, a scientist will never prevail, however good her or his evidence. This is why we see the UK parking its climate change commitments at a time when the news is full of the costs of extreme weather and increased commodity prices.

The problem is that you cannot prove in a scientific sense that the gales, floods and price increases are directly a result of climate change and even less so global warming, which will continue long term, but year-on-year is not predictable.

What is needed is a new pragmatic approach to articulate the environment knowledge we have, and to expose those who deny the pre-eminence of environmental challenges and solutions to our future wellbeing. And there is a great forum to demonstrate this, the corporate sector. More and more companies are adopting environment-savvy corporate strategies to combat actual and predicted risks related to crop yields, raw materials, supply chains and customer demands.

Investment in low-carbon technologies, resource-efficient operations and energy efficiency is rising year-on-year and 2014 will see this trend continue. This provides a great opportunity for innovation and excellence by environment professionals in meeting and exceeding businesses’ demands.

While these private sector leaders are, at heart, driven by self preservation, competitiveness and profit, their experiences of shifting to a more sustainable footing must be communicated to those who seek to govern us and to international institutions to empower them to act boldly. Who else can design the long-term and strategic visions for our tax, infrastructure and social services that are consistent with a sustainable future?

Of course, it is important to maintain rigour in accumulating evidence of environmental change, both losses and gains, so we know how to improve the health of the planet, as well as the wealth of its population.

To gain an unchallenged commitment to start enhancing the wellbeing of our planet, rather than being satisfied by occasionally slowing its long-term decline, requires a new approach. We can only turn this corner in 2014 if we recognise that logic and science alone will not win the argument.

The biggest challenge of the coming months is to not to be satisfied with delivering more environmentally excellent projects, while still living in a society that is ecologically unsustainable.

We need to develop the skills in communication, persuasion and emotional intelligence in 2014 to make responsibility for the environment everyone’s burden. To ensure that responsibility becomes a human instinct integral to any leader’s authority and not just contemplated when presented with unarguable scientific proof.

The gap between where we are now and where we need to be is not going to be closed in one year, but every minute of procrastination makes it wider and more difficult to bridge.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

Young people struggling to secure green jobs

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

At a School of Management careers event at Cranfield University, one of our IEMA-approved university partners, we spoke to students from a range of postgraduate courses, from supply chain to marketing and management.

28th March 2024

Read more

To make real change on sustainability, it’s time to redefine leadership models, writes Chris Seekings

1st February 2024

Read more

Caris Graham (she/her) is Diverse Sustainability Initiative officer at IEMA

1st February 2024

Read more

Lisa Pool reflects on the highlights of the past year and what they mean for the future

1st February 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close