Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Time is running out. Singapore sets up Climate Science Unit. And improves drains.

[Three news articles about Climate Change and what it means for Singapore.]

‘Time is running out’: Tackling climate change a priority for Singapore, says Masagos

By Matthew Mohan

17 Jul 2019 01:00PM

SINGAPORE: Facing the “loud and unmistakable” warning of climate change, Singapore needs to act, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jul 17).

Speaking at the 2019 Partners for the Environment forum, Mr Masagos stressed that tackling climate change is a “pressing priority” and an “existential challenge” for Singapore.

“Time is running out,” he said. “Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued one of the starkest warnings from the scientific community – an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius in global warming could occur as early as 2030.

[From the IPCC report: "Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air."

Note: NET carbon dioxide emissions must FALL BY 45% by 2030. Cut our emissions by almost half? So think about your daily life. Let's start easy. If you change your phone every year, now do it once every two years. If you usually have 4 lights on in your home. Now use 2. If you use your computer 6 hours a day, now cut to 3 hours. If you watch TV 4 hours a day, now reduce it to 2. And so on.

Cutting our CO2 by 45% in a little over 10 years? 

Wishful thinking.]

“The warning is loud and unmistakable: We must act now or we may well face the ultimate threat to human survival ... the end of ‘life as usual’.”

[Er... two points. One, if you have to drastically cut your CO2 emissions, how would that be "life as usual"? Two, the "Ultimate Threat to Human Survival" is not the end of "life as usual". The Ultimate Threat is extinction. Unless you meant "extinction", when you said euphemistically, "the end of life as usual"?]

Citing floods and mudslides in Japan as well as the heatwave in Europe, Mr Masagos said extreme weather events are “not one-off events, but symptoms of a much greater problem”.

“When I was growing up in the 60s, the hottest month in Singapore was about 27 degrees Celsius on average,” he added. “That is now the average temperature of the coolest months in this decade, and our hottest days exceed 34 degrees.

“What climate science is piecing together, foretells the calamity that will befall the world if we all do too little too late.”

[It is too late. The climate has already changed. To hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C requires humans to cut our CO2 emissions by half in 10 years. It is not going to happen.]


The Government will set up a new climate science unit next year to spearhead Singapore’s climate science master plan as well as strengthen the country’s capabilities in climate science research., Mr Masagos said.

[Oh. That's nice! And we need a climate science unit here to create jobs for all the Singaporean Climate Scientists who need jobs? Or because Climate Science in Singapore is different from the rest of the world and we would not be able to use the data from other places? Or because SG's climate affects only 5.6 million people living here and we need data specific to SG, so we need a local team?]

The unit will focus on research into rising sea levels and other key areas of climate science with "significant impact on Singapore". These include the impact of climate change on Singapore’s water resources and flood management; the impact of warming trends on health and the energy sector; biodiversity and food security.

It will also collaborate with institutes of higher learning and research institutes.

The unit will be set up under the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS), which was established in 2013 under the Meteorological Service Singapore to develop research expertise in the weather and climate of Singapore and Southeast Asia.

CCRS will also launch a S$10 million National Sea Level Research Programme over the next five years, in order to better understand sea levels around Singapore and develop more robust sea level projections.

It will issue grant calls to local research institutes to seek project proposals next month.

“Climate change sets us a monumental, inter-generational task - how to ensure that our little red dot does not disappear below the waves,” said Mr Masagos. “Climate science tells us it is not a matter of ‘if’ the sea level will rise but a matter of ‘when’ and ‘how much’.”

New research office to boost Singapore’s climate science capabilities

By Navene Elangovan

17 July, 2019

SINGAPORE — The Government will set up a new office to strengthen Singapore’s capabilities in climate science, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Wednesday (July 17).

The new Climate Science Research Programme Office, set up under the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS), will lead and drive efforts to formulate Singapore’s national climate science research masterplan, as well as to build up local capabilities in climate science.

“The Programme Office will work closely with scientists and researchers in our research institutes and universities to harness their expertise for cutting-edge climate science research,” said Mr Masagos, who was speaking at a forum to promote environmental collaboration among partners from the community, public and private sector.

The research will focus on key issues that will have a significant impact on Singapore, including the rise of sea levels, the impact of climate change on the Republic’s water resources and the impact of rising temperatures on human health and the energy sector.

Mr Masagos noted that the Government had established the CCRS in 2013, under the Meteorological Service Singapore in the National Environment Agency, to meet the challenge of climate change with actions based on “robust science”.

“Climate science, where it is developed specifically for the tropics, is a new and complex area of research. There is limited amount of expertise and experts in this area,” said Mr Masagos, who added that more work needs to be done.

In his speech Mr Masagos stressed that climate change is a “pressing priority and an existential challenge”.

“At stake is nothing less than the physical preservation of our island nation and its inhabitants,” he said.


Mr Masagos also announced that the CCRS will set aside S$10 million in funding over the next five years for the National Sea Level Research Programme.

The programme, which was announced earlier this year, will help Singapore strengthen its understanding of sea levels around the country and help it develop more robust projections of how sea levels will rise in the future.

The CCRS will also issue a request to local research institutes for their project proposals next month.

Mr Masagos said that Singapore’s mean sea levels were projected to rise by up to around one metre by 2100, although this could occur earlier if ice sheets melt more rapidly or if ice shelves in Antarctica were to collapse.

Such a scenario was one of the most worrying “black swan” scenarios for low-lying countries such as Singapore, said Mr Masagos.

“CCRS has considered what might happen if we see high mean sea levels, high tide, and high surge all at the same time – even though this would be a rare scenario.”

“Sea levels could reach almost four metres above current mean sea levels, and overwhelm our low-lying coastal areas,” he said.

[Oh wow. Even without the National Sea Level Research Programme, he already knows sea levels could rise 1 to 4 m high. And as he says, it is not a matter of "if", but when and by how much.

Here is the fundamental problem of this National Sea Level Research Programme: how much the sea rises is affected by how much the earth warms and that depends on how well every country meets their commitment to reduce carbon emissions, and whether these reduction would have any effect on the polar ice caps. And yes, there are some differences for sea level rise in the tropics and away from the equator. 

And there are some runaway cascade effects that we cannot fully account for. All projections are ultimately predictions based on the best educated guesses we can come up with. So are we going to debate whether the sea level will rise 1 m, 4 m, or 8 m? 

And this is from 2016.

And then place our "bet" on how high the seas will rise?]

Mr Masagos said that climate science has given policy makers guidance on the need to protect critical infrastructure against rising sea levels and extreme events. This was why Singapore was already building new projects such as the Tuas Port Terminal and Changi Airport Terminal 5 at higher platform levels.

With the CCRS’ climate science tailored for the tropics, Mr Masagos added that Singapore would share what it knows to help its neighbours plan for their adaptation to climate change as well.


Mr Masagos added that as part of efforts to collaborate with scientists around the world, Singapore will also be hosting a Scoping Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Singapore in October this year, together with a meeting of the IPCC Bureau, one of the highest decision-making bodies in the IPCC.

The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

“This is the first time that Singapore will be hosting an IPCC meeting. It signals our strong support for the commitment to climate science and climate action,” said Mr Masagos.

[It would be good if someone would tally up the carbon emissions for this Scoping Meeting. Cynical, but interesting.]

The string of announcements by Mr Masagos were made at the Partners for the Environment forum held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre today.

Into its third year, the annual event is organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR). It is also co-organised by the British High Commission in Singapore for the first time. The collaboration is in support of the Singapore-United Kingdom Partnership for the Future launched earlier this year which will see both countries broaden and deepen their ties.

Preparing against ‘the perfect storm’: Singapore to spend S$400 million upgrading and maintaining drains

By Matthew Mohan

17 Jul 2019 01:00PM

SINGAPORE: As part of efforts to boost flood resilience, Singapore will spend an additional S$400 million to upgrade and maintain drains over the next two years, announced Environment Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday (Jul 17).

Speaking at the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR)’s 2019 Partners for the Environment forum, Mr Masagos said Singapore remains vulnerable to the effects of climate change, despite previous efforts to protect the environment and improve resilience.

“We can thank our pioneer leaders for putting us in a better position, but the urgency of environmental challenges cannot be understated ... we must remain clear-eyed about Singapore’s vulnerability as a small, low-lying island with no natural resources and no hinterland to retreat to if sea levels rise,” he explained.

As such, there is a need to plan, invest and implement solutions for the long haul, said Mr Masagos.

READ: ‘Time is running out’: Tackling climate change a priority for Singapore, says Masagos

Singapore has already spent around S$1.8 billion on drainage improvement works, and this includes the Stamford Diversion Canal and the Stamford Detention Tank, which were completed last year.

“Singapore has always prided ourselves on our foresight and long-term planning. By planning early, we can phase in the necessary measures in a timely manner whilst spreading out the costs over many years,” said Mr Masagos.

Giving the example of a 1953 storm surge in the North Sea which overwhelmed dykes in the Netherlands and resulted in 1,800 deaths, Mr Masagos called it an “unfortunate” incident, as scientific studies years before had warned that its existing dykes were inadequate.

He said: “We must be prepared to make the necessary investments to protect Singapore against sea level rise and, for critical infrastructure, against the ‘perfect storm’.”

[Yes, we must protect Singapore from dykes.]


Mr Masagos also pointed out that there needs to be collective action, and that "we need to partner businesses, individuals and organisations to come up with creative and effective solutions".

“The Government has initiated the momentum for action. But we cannot do this alone,” he said. “As Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said last month, we believe in expanding our democracy of deeds, where Singaporeans contribute not just their ideas, but also their efforts to build our future.”

This includes people making climate-friendly choices such as reducing single-use plastics and purchasing appliances which have less environmental impact, said Mr Masagos.

[Right. If we stop using single-use plastics, our drains will not overflow. Yes, I am deliberately misunderstanding or misrepresenting him. Climate Change is a global issue. Yes, we need to reduce or even stop polluting the Earth with plastic, but its main impact is to the environment - as non-degrading landfill, as garbage floating in the sea, endangering marine life. Of all the contributors to carbon emission, power generation and heating accounts for about 25%. Energy for transportation about 14%. Energy for Industry another 15% And other combustion, about 9%. Total contribution for energy production is about 2/3 of all carbon emissions. That means if we want to drastically cut emissions, the best way is to switch from fossil fuel to a clean, low-emissions or zero-emissions fuel system. 

Just how BIG is the plastic problem? One figure I found is that the worldwide production of plastic is 100 million tons. This figure is abut 10 years old and for this amount of plastic produced the CO2 emitted is between 100 million tons to 500 million tons! Which sounds like a lot until we find that the annual CO2 emissions is... over 38 BILLION tons (2012 figure).

A more recent figure (2015) states that plastic production led to 1.8 gigatons of CO2 emitted! OMG! Is that a lot? Well, that same source concedes that 1.8 gigatons is about 3.8% of global emissions. Well, you might say, 3.8% is not a HUGE figure, but EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. 

Help your head, ah. What this means is that to just reduce CO2 by 3.8% we must COMPLETELY STOP producing and using plastic. And you idiot will say, "ok what! We should stop using plastic bags and straws and plastic forks and spoons and cups, and coffee lid and all those single-use disposables! 

And what about plastic used in construction, in phones, in laptops, in furniture, in cars, in industries? A plastic chair is several hundred times heavier than a straw or a shopping bag. If you want to just cut 3.8% of CO2 emissions, you need to cut ALL plastic use. Including those plastic components in your phone, laptops, home, office, and cars. If you just cut plastic bags and straws, you save LESS THAN 3.8%. 

Plastic account for 1.8 gigatons or 3.8% of global emissions. What is the figure for global emissions?

One figure from 2018 states that annual emission is 36.2 gigatonnes (note that "gigatons" and "gigatonnes" are different measures, imperial and metric).]

In addition, MEWR will convene a Citizens’ Workgroup by September to get 50 Singaporeans to work with them to come up with solutions to improve the way recycling is done, said Mr Masagos.

[Get with the programme! Recycling is a scam. The moment China closed its sphincter, the world got constipated, and the garbage back flow surged into South-East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. If recycling is so good, why isn't it done onsite (where the garbage is generated)? Why does it get shipped to developing countries to pollute their land and poison their people? ]

The workgroup will include Singaporeans from different backgrounds and will be given access to policy-relevant information, such as household recycling surveys.

“We need everyone to play their part and as one nation, overcome the existential challenge that climate change poses, which can threaten our way of life,” said Mr Masagos.

“If we put our heads, hearts and minds together, we will come out of this for the better and will leave behind a more resilient and prosperous Singapore for our children, grandchildren and many generations to come.”

Source: CNA/jt(mi)

[Singapore has always looked at things with a critical eye, maybe even a jaundiced eye, and saw things as they were, and as they needed to be devoid of sentimentalism, idealism, and morality. The problem of climate change is not "can we stop it". It is not even, "can we ameliorate/moderate it?" The problem of climate change is, how are we going to respond to it in a rational, logical, and effective manner. 

The problem isn't what penance can we get people to do, but what will be a significant change we can effect that would make a difference. Focus on the biggest source of emission: energy production. 

Until then, all the above - the new Climate Science Unit, the National Sea Level Research Programme, cutting down on plastic, the Citizens Workgroup to improve recycling - is akin to moving deck chairs on the Titanic.]

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