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60 seconds with...Jim Hall, University of Oxford

Institution News Team

Ahead of the IMechE's International Conference and Workshop on Climate Adaptation and Resilience, speaker Jim Hall weighs in on the key considerations for engineers on these topics.

For further details of the event, to view the full agenda and register to join, visit the event website.

Please could you briefly outline your role and experience in relation to the conference?

Dr Jim Hall (JH): I am a professor in the University of Oxford and Commissioner of the National Infrastructure Commission. My research is on infrastructure systems, including energy, transport and water. Within my research programme, the Oxford Programme on Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (OPSIS) we build models of these complex systems and use them to test system performance, particularly in the context of climate extremes.

What do you see as the biggest challenges in mobilising the international engineering community to adapt to the impacts of climate change?

JH: I actually think the engineering community is ready and eager to adapt infrastructure to the impact of climate change. This is a big challenge that the engineering community is ready to use its skills to address. There are uncertainties in future changes and existing systems, but engineers are used to making dependable choices in the face of uncertainty. Perhaps there’s a challenge in persuading clients of the need to embed adaptation, but increasing regulatory and financial disclosure requirements are pushing this to happen.

Your keynote presentation is about the resilience of Britain’s national infrastructure. How does this interlink with the international programme?

JH: Britain has been innovating in climate action for many years. The Thames Estuary 2100 programme led to some really innovative work on sea level rise uncertainties, flood risk analysis and adaptive management. This has been picked up internationally. Within my research group, we are increasingly working on international problems, but our original work on interdependent risk analysis was in Britain. Learning from that has driven much of what has followed.

Which other presentations stand out to you and what are you hoping to take away from the conference?

JH: You’ve assembled a fantastic group of speakers. I’m looking to hear about the latest developments from your international speakers.

Which parts of the engineering community are you particularly hoping will be represented at the event?

JH: Climate change impacts infrastructure in different ways. For example most of Britain’s highway network is built to modern engineering standards, whereas construction of a lot of the railway network predates the advent of soil mechanics; these embankments and cuttings are now subject to changing rainfall and temperature conditions, which is proving to be really challenging, given the length and complexity of the assets.

Why is it important to encourage collaboration as we tackle these challenges?

JH: Adaptation is an inherently interdisciplinary problem. It requires inputs from climate scientists, engineers, economists and policy makers. We’re increasingly looking to nature-based solutions, which require knowledge of ecology. And all of this requires monitoring, sensing and data analysis. It’s an exciting and rapidly developing field.

The 1st International Conference and Workshop on Climate Adaptation and Resilience will take place on 6-8 September 2023

For further details of the event, to view the full agenda and register to join, visit the event website.


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