One of the world’s most influential scientific minds
There are, perhaps, two characteristics that define Associate Professor Tommy Wiedmann’s professional life. One is his belief in broad based collaboration across national boundaries. Another is his belief that the environment cannot be protected by missionary zeal but by action and example in the personal, regional and global spheres.
In 2012 Assoc. Professor Wiedmann won a coveted Thomson Reuters Citation and Innovation Award. This award identifies exceptional scientists by quantifying their citations and is regarded internationally as evidence of “sustained high impact” research. In 2015 he was listed as one of the ‘World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds’ in a TR report which analyzed the number of cited research papers an academic published from 2003 to 2013.
Tommy Wiedmann has continued to refine his expertise and develop his international reputation in the innovative and holistic discipline of sustainability systems, including his role as technical advisor to Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most widely used international accounting tool for world leaders to manage greenhouse gas emissions.
“Traditionally engineering has focused on technology, at times not considering the resources needed to produce it, but optimising technology alone is no longer enough”. Wiedmann believes that to truly tackle global challenges, environmental engineering needs to site itself in a broader set of contexts: including ethical, legal, economic, political, cultural and social considerations.
In this new “endless field” engineers need to be flexible critical thinkers, willing to interface with a wide variety of stakeholders and disciplines to compose complex solutions. For example, water recycling technology, so vital in Australia, cannot be regarded as viable if the broader public continue to perceive recycled water as inferior or even offensive, as in the case of recycled sewerage. Likewise, renewable energy technologies are not successful if they are economically prohibitive; unavailable to a large part of the population. Sustainability systems, as a new field of engineering, seeks to include these social, political, economic and ethical variables in its mathematical and technological trajectories.
Traditionally engineering has focused on technology, at times not considering the resources needed to produce it, but optimising technology alone is no longer enough
A/Professor Tommy Wiedmann
One of these new considerations is the identification of the invisible or ‘outsourced’ emissions as part of the drive toward a more accurate picture of consumption and its impacts. Currently Tommy is head of the Industrial Ecology Lab, working in collaboration with the Jolliet Lab from the University of Michigan. This ‘lab’ is creating ground breaking electronic infrastructure to identify the indirect environmental impacts created by extended and diffuse production and supply chains. These improved analytics will lead to improved modelling, helping to create a new era of sustainability re- search, deepening its accuracy, and hoping to increase environmental conscience with this increased flow of information.
Tommy’s project within the national research and innovation hub, the Co-operative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) is the Integrated Carbon Metrics Project, conducted in partnership with international industry partners Bluescope, Aurecon and Aecom. This project will create an embodied data base of carbon life cycle and flow for specific building projects, precincts and regions. 3D modelling will heighten visualisation for specific precinct development, with case study precincts used to verify data in the hope that low carbon precincts will become a not too distant urban reality.
Such innovative and complex approaches to environmental policy, analysis and design are central concepts in the new CVEN post graduate program designed by Professor Wiedmann; Master of Engineering Science: Sustainable Systems.
Delivered for the first time in 2016 this program is providing exemplary education and thought leadership, attracting equal numbers of female and male students who are prepared to ask difficult questions of them- selves and their industry.
In his attempts to increase ethical self-assessment, Professor Wiedmann always asks his students to first assess their own environmental footprint. It is only once we have truthfully seen ourselves can we ask the rest of the world to step more lightly on the planet.