Rising awareness of the effects
27 July 2012The Straits Times
Five years ago, researchers from the Gallup World Poll asked people from around the world whether they were aware of global climate change, and whether they personally perceived it as a threat.
Though 89 per cent of the Singaporeans asked said they knew something or a lot about climate change, just 59 per cent of those viewed it as a threat. (South Korea came in at 93 and 80 per cent. In Ethiopia, 80 per cent said they were aware of climate change, and 73 per cent of those saw it as a personal threat.)
Last year, a survey by Singapore's own National Climate Change Secretariat showed 73.8 per cent of 1,010 respondents were concerned about climate change, and 63.4 per cent thought Singapore would be severely affected.
So there is rising awareness of how the Republic will be buffeted by climate change. Even if the economy remains robust, there is no way for Singapore to spend its way out of climate change's worst impacts.
If global greenhouse-gas emissions go unchecked, both rainfall and dry periods could become more intense, for example - and flood and water management will be more and more important for the island-state.
Boosted by melting ice sheets, sea levels are also projected to rise between 18cm and 59 cm this century, estimates the United Nations' climate panel. Some scientists say the rise could be as much as 1m to 2m.
So the Singapore government has mandated that new reclaimed land must be at least 2.25m above the highest recorded tide level. And much of the coastline already has some form of tidal protection.
But the nation will feel the knock-on effects of climate change beyond its borders, too.
For example, extreme weather means that food production will fluctuate, making global food prices - including those here - more volatile. Business supply chains could also be disrupted - for instance, floods in Thailand last year hit the electronics and automobile supply chains hard.
And as oceans warm up, some of the reefs that serve as homes and nurseries to fish are dying off, so the food-fish supply may dwindle, leading to further food-security worries.
On the flip side, some measures to stem climate change can also be good for the country.
For instance, boosting energy efficiency would help Singapore - which has few energy or fuel resources of its own at the best of times - increase its energy security, by making energy supplies go further.
And cross-border efforts to halt deforestation in Indonesia can also put a lid on forest fires there as well as the consequent haze that clouds the skies each year.