Dr Tom Dolan discusses a systems approach to Net-Zero Infrastructure

Dr Tom Dolan discusses a systems approach to Net-Zero Infrastructure
27 May 2021

On 26th May 2021, Dr Tom Dolan discussed a systems approach to Net-Zero Infrastructure at a seminar held as part of Imperial College London's CSEI 2021 series.

This seminar was the first in the CSEI 2021 Series which aims to look, from different perspectives and through a systems engineering lens, at what needs to be done, and by whom, in order to reduce both infrastructure and industry’s carbon footprints. The event was very well attended with 66 participants.

The seminar was opened by CSEI’s co-Director’s Dr Ana Mijic who briefly spoke about the work done within the Centre and the goals of the Seminar Series. She then introduced the day’s speaker, Dr Tom Dolan.

Dr Dolan, whose main research interests lie in the field of resilience and infrastructure, opened his talk by observing that failure to adapt infrastructure to resilience challenges posed by climate change and carbon emissions could have grave consequences. Any nation that fails to prioritise the systemic resilience of its national system of infrastructure networks to global warming driven resilience challenges will regret it.

In particular, long-term prosperity and wellbeing are emergent properties that depend on two characteristics of national infrastructure (and other enabling systems):

  • Resilience to the disruptive impacts caused by global warming of 1.5OC.
  • Ability to drive enable Net Zero success by 2050.

However, in order to achieve that, national infrastructure and other outcome enabling systems must be intrinsically resilient to the disruptive impacts of resilience challenges. Dr Dolan argued that sustained prosperity needs national infrastructure systemically resilient to the disruptive impacts of resilience challenges. A systems approach is the only way to achieve this.

The main points of Dr Dolan’s talk were:

  • Global warming, other sustainability challenges and resilience are interdependent emergent properties that share a number of common causes.
  • A successful response to one requires a synergistic focus on all three and the creation of a diverse long-term, collaborative, dynamic, multi­faceted, multi-scale and synergistic portfolio of systemically targeted actions.
  • The systemically-targeted transformation of national infrastructure into Net Zero enabling, sustainability-supporting, resilience-enhancing systems has the potential to catalyse progress across all levels of society and the economy.
  • National infrastructure is a societal leverage point and an essential component of any successful response to environmental challenges.
  • The concept of Net Zero Pollution as defined through research carried out within CSEI.

A lively Q&A session followed. The main points explored were:

  • How to practically implement the concept of Net Zero infrastructure.
  • How to draw out the benefits of a Systems Engineering approach.
  • The role of digital in systems analysis.
  • The impact of digital tools on establishing interdependencies and cyber interdependencies.
  • The role of Civil Engineers in enabling the transition to Net Zero.

Dr Dolan’s final remarks were around the value of thinking in terms of finding answers to specific questions relating to the system, rather than focusing on rigid modelling.

To watch a recording of the event, click here.

To read more about Dr Dolan’s research, see the following free resources: 

Content republished from Imperial College London's website here

Image credit: Karen Uppal via Unsplash