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Hot Times, Cool Opportunities


By Robert Ikenberry

It’s time to talk about climate change—and I don’t mean arguing about whether it’s happening. 

It is.

Facts are facts, and arguing about them doesn’t change them. 

Global warming is real, and no reputable science conflicts with the facts.
It’s time to stop arguing the facts of global warming and start tackling the implications.


I also don’t mean assigning blame, or even cause. You and I individually are not going to change things and, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, since we are all going to have to deal with its ramifications.

So this discussion isn’t about politics; it’s about business. I’m talking about dealing with it, rather than ignoring it.

The Heat is On

My wife was talking last night to a high school friend who lives in Tucson, AZ. The friend mentioned that June 2013 was the hottest month on record. Ever. 

Every single day in June was over 100 degrees in Tucson. That had never happened in any month before. I know that’s weather, not climate, and that we can have anomalies anytime, but it just makes sense to understand that extreme weather is becoming the new normal.
Climate change will mean accelerated corrosion of structures and new challenges for maintaining them.


We need to recognize it, so we can deal with it.

Making plans for our businesses, looking for opportunities, and taking advantage of them will help your bottom line. 

Protecting Workers...

First, take heat stress and heat illnesses seriously. California instituted Cal/OSHA regulations relating to heat injuries about five years ago. The rest of the country will soon follow, but you don’t have to wait for regulations.

Train your workers about heat stress and about the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses: heat exhaustion and the life-threatening condition of heat stroke.

Make sure that adequate supplies of water are available to workers and that they know to keep hydrated, even when they don’t feel thirsty. Have shade available; learn about the importance of acclimatization.

Working in the heat with heavy protective gear can be fatal. Learning how to protect workers will save lives and down time.


Consider the specifics of your projects. Think about the protective clothing required and the heat load it may add, and review the sources of heat in and around your work areas.

Avoiding injuries reduces insurance costs, and more comfortable workers are more productive workers.

...and Structures

With warmer weather and higher water levels, corrosion will be accelerated in many areas. Protection of our bridges and other infrastructure will be increasingly important.

In areas of drought and increased temperatures, UV resistance, controlling heat gain, and preservation of structures will also be more important. Understand how the coatings you typically use will react to higher UV levels and heat stresses.

FEMA / Mark Wolfe
Extreme weather, including hurricanes, is the new normal. Who will capitalize on it, and how?


You can then advise your clients realistically on application conditions, on the life expectancy of coating applications in your environments, and on how to plan for the environmental conditions you are likely to see in the future.

Winners and Losers

Coatings that cool roofs, keep buildings or windows clean, reduce heat loss, and maybe even generate electricity could all be huge opportunities in this new era.

Energy costs will continue to rise—probably more than other items. We need to consider what operations are most energy intensive, and where we can find savings.

Can we blast clean without compressed air? It’s immensely inefficient.

Portable wheel blasters have niche markets, but maybe they can be made smaller and more versatile. Maybe fed in some way other than by gravity, so that they can move around? Maybe act more like a blast nozzle? Expand and improve tools that provide cleaning and impart anchor profile without loose abrasive?

Fossil hydrocarbon-based fuels, resins and solvents will also continue to increase in price faster than other items. Plant-based resins, inorganic polymers, nano-materials, or something else we've not heard of yet.... Where will the most successful next new products in coatings come from?

Looking at more efficient alternatives to compressors, and solvent-based petrochemical polymers will make sense.

Just Warming Up

These obviously aren’t answers, just questions, but it’s time to start looking harder and farther into the future than just the next quarter.

It’s time to do what we have always done when faced with an enormous challenge: Figure out how to make a buck from it, and how to be the first or best to take advantage of it.

Look at global warming as an opportunity, and it may not look quite so hopeless—or deniable.


Robert Ikenberry

Robert Ikenberry, PCS, has been in industrial painting and construction since 1975. Now semi-retired as the Safety Director and Project Manager for California Engineering Contractors, Robert stays busy rehabbing, retrofitting and painting bridges. His documentary on the 1927 Carquinez Bridge was the pilot for National Geographic’s Break it Down and an episode of MegaStructures.



Tagged categories: Bridges; Program/Project Management; Comfort; Environmental Protection; Health and safety; Industrial Hygienists; Protective clothing

Comment from Mike DesPres, (7/11/2013, 7:57 AM)

The earth is 4 billon years old and the hottest month ever recorded in Tucson was June 2013. I have a question what was the temp in June about 3.5 billon years ago? You use a time line of about 100 years and tell me it's global warming or climate change. Show me some data not just talking points. How much effect dose the cycle of the sun have on global warming? We do need to be concerned about the safety of our empolyees, and make sure they hydrate, cool down in shaded areas and train them how to recognize the signs of heat stress.

Comment from Mark Ryan, (7/11/2013, 9:01 AM)

It gets hot in Tucson? The better question is does it ever get cool. Rattlesnakes take a siesta there. I'm more concerned with the sudden global warming that would come with a mountain sized space rock vaporizing as it impacts the Earth at a 100,000 miles an hour. But there aren't a lot of shovel ready projects in the anti-asteroid field. If global warming gets you rev'ed up, that's fine. I think there are enough building envelope advantages to advanced products in the area or durability, functionality and energy savings that you can stay out of politics and push the physics and engineering.

Comment from Mark Bowen, (7/11/2013, 10:22 AM)

If you assume that the earth's climate has never changed and the amount of carbon 14 in the atmosphere has been constant during the millennia when it was never measured, then you have a basis for saying that the earth is 4 billon (sic) years old. If you now say that the climate is changing, then you no longer have a rational basis for your age of the earth calculation.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (7/11/2013, 11:28 AM)

It is a proven fact that for the last 15 years the average temperatures all around the globe have fallen. This article states global warming is a fact and that is not the truth at all! When the opening paragraph is BS does one even need to read further? A couple of years ago it was brought out into the open that a hand full of scientists claiming global warming was occurring were basing that on data that was purposefully distorted and made to appear to prove their claims. At the same time over 32,000 scientists signed a statement saying global warming was not occurring and that man was not causing temperatures to warm up world wide. The fact is global warming was proved to be a fallacy and was a scam intended to make a few people billions of dollars. All they have done now is change the wording from "global warming" to "climate change". After the lies were brought out into the open, and global temperatures fell for 15 years straight, they were forced to change the terminology, but they still lie. Just a week or so ago I heard the US President speak about addressing "climate change" and that 97% of the scientists agreed with him on it...just more lies! If you want to talk about workers getting heat stroke, fine, that is a good subject, but don't feed us lies about global warming or climate change. We get enough lies on the news every day.

Comment from Eugene Doerr, III, (7/11/2013, 4:56 PM)

I'm confused as to why opening with "global warming" was even necessary to talk about heat exhaustion and cooling buildings...

Comment from Steve Edgar, (7/14/2013, 9:15 PM)

Well, if you go to this link (, you will find the Historic Temperatures for Tucson, Arizona. For June 2013, the highest recorded temperature was 117 F. in June 1990. For July, the highest temperature was 114 F. in July 1995. Could this mean a cooling off period? Sorry Mr. DesPres, I cannot find any data to support a date way back 3.5 billion years ago. But enough of this Global Warming and Climate Change. We all know that is not true. I guess if you work in Tucson, Arizona, or even are contemplating crossing over the boarder from Mexico into the United States, in June, July or even August, make sure you stay hydrated! Watch out for them Rattlesnakes, Asteroids and UFO's!

Comment from Car F., (7/18/2013, 11:34 AM)

The Earth will survive, it has done so for billions of year: humans will not, we are just a mere accident in the larger scale of things, as George Carlin said: "we are a pest, a flea that the Earth will shak up as as infectation", recycle all you want, jump in the green charade, save tin and recycle paper, it will no do....we are done.

Comment from Simon Hope, (8/8/2013, 4:12 AM)

Robert, great article and blog as it seems to have stirred up a hornets nest!! I love the way that people go into denial of climate change the minute it is mentioned even though this is not the basis of your blog!! It is fascinating to see the comments coming out of the States over the past years regardless of what information is put forward that proves that there are defined trends changing the global ecosystem. The sooner that people realise that we cannot carry on the way we are going the better and some degree of restraint and control is needed. In the mean time, following your advice will hopeful help stop people getting hurt!!

Comment from Robert Ikenberry, (8/8/2013, 7:09 PM)

Thanks for your comment Simon. I know most of us just roll our eyes and don't bother to respond when confronted with anti-logic and anti-science, since we know we aren't going to change those minds. But there is a real risk that if we all keep silent, the only voices heard will be those of the deniers. Eventually repeated falsehoods become "accepted reality" even when they aren't. I'm reminded of a quote I'll paraphrase... "All that is necessary for the forces of distortion to control the narrative is for enough good men to say nothing..." Thanks for your courage to speak some sense.

Comment from Jerry Trevino, (8/9/2013, 4:53 PM)

The "forces of distortion" cause millions of our tax dollars to flow to phony green companies which in turn, contribute to more political control to enslave more americans into a welfare state. Just another crisis to exploit and plunder the treasury.

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