Climate Game Changer
Climate Game Changer
About Climate Change
The terms “weather” and “climate” are often used interchangeably but they refer to events with broadly different timescales.
What’s the difference between weather and climate?
Climate is a statistical and aggregate study of past weather conditions over a number of years — from decades to centuries. Weather, on the other hand, comprises the day-to-day changes in temperature, humidity, rainfall and wind that we experience.
Climate is often expressed in terms of months and seasons while weather is measured by days and weeks. While it is possible to provide weather forecasts, it is only possible to provide general projections for climate due to the wide time scales and uncertainties involved.
Then is global warming and climate change the same?
The greenhouse effect occurs naturally when heat from the Earth’s surface is absorbed by greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
Greenhouse gases are naturally present in the air, and allow the Earth’s atmosphere to be warm enough to support life. However, human activities such as burning of fossil fuels for energy and industrial production, and clearing of forests to raise livestock, increases the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere. These additional GHGs trap even more heat in the atmosphere, making the Earth warmer. Global warming leads to long-term climate change.
So what is climate change?
Climate change refers to significant variations in global weather patterns that persist over an extended period of time.
Over the past 100 years, global temperatures have been increasing faster than ever before. As the Earth gets warmer, rain patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and year after year, snow and ice are melting sooner each spring. The impact of climate change on the environment is becoming increasingly apparent as climate conditions continue to change and intensify.
The consensus among the scientific community is that climate change is the result of a complex combination of natural and man-made activity. The findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an internationally accepted authority on climate change that provides comprehensive scientific assessments on climate change, indicate that human activities are indeed speeding up climate change.
Like many countries around the world, Singapore is experiencing the effects of climate change.
In recent years, Singapore has seen bouts of high temperatures, intense thunderstorms leading to flash floods, dry spells, and the threat of rising sea levels. These can cause significant damage to homes, businesses and livelihoods globally.
As a low-lying, densely-populated tropical island city-state, we are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and variability.
Here are some examples of how Singapore is experiencing the effects of climate change.
2019 was our hottest year on record, alongside 2016. The annual mean temperature in 2019 was 28.4°C — 0.9°C higher than the 1981-2010 long-term average, and equalled the previous warmest year record of 28.4°C set in 2016.
Four of the past five years are among the top 10 warmest years on record with respect to annual mean temperature, since temperature records began in 1929.
Towards the end of this century (2070 to 2099), daily mean temperatures are projected to increase by 1.4°C to 4.6°C , compared with the baseline period of 1980 to 2009.
In 2014, Singapore experienced a record 27-day dry spell. Our desalination and NEWater plants had to operate near full capacity to meet our water needs.
In 2016, the prolonged dry period brought water levels at Linggiu Reservoir to a the historic low of 20%.
In 2010, 2011 and 2013, heavy rainfall contributed to major flash flood events, resulting in significant damage.
The contrast between the wet months (Nov to Jan) and dry months (Feb and Jun to Sep) will likely become more pronounced in the future. Increasing trends in both intensity and frequency of heavy rainfall events are expected as the world gets warmer.
How else can climate change affect Singapore?
Communities and property along Singapore’s coastline could be affected by rising sea levels.
Based on today’s science, climate scientists in Singapore have projected that our mean sea levels could rise by up to around one metre by 2100. If ice sheets melt more rapidly and, worse, if ice shelves in Antarctica were to collapse, sea levels could reach one metre even earlier, or go even higher.
An increase in the intensity of weather variability could present significant challenges to the management of our water resources. Periods of drought can affect the reliability of Singapore’s water supply, while sudden episodes of intense rainfall could overwhelm our drainage system and lead to flash floods.
Our Biodiversity and Greenery
Trees could be damaged or uprooted due to strong winds.
Biodiversity may be affected by changes in temperature and rainfall.
There may be more bush fires due to temperature increase and low rainfall.
Our Public Health
Higher temperatures may affect human health and healthcare operations.Vector and pest populations could increase due to higher temperatures and rainfall, increasing the incidence of diseases such as dengue.
Our Food Supply
The effects of climate change, such as intense storms, flooding and prolonged droughts, are one of the trends threatening global food security. In Singapore, we are particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in global food supply and prices, as we import more than 90% of our food.
Our Essential Services
Intense rainfall, sea level rise, and temperature changes could affect the operation of our telecommunications, power, and transport infrastructure.
Our Buidlings and Infrastructure
Safety and reliability of infrastructure could be impacted by strong winds and higher temperatures. Increased rainfall could lead to slope instability
Robust, credible and objective scientific assessments form the cornerstone of our climate change strategy.
Even as we harness science and technology, Singapore is taking a measured approach against climate change as well as developing meaningful solutions to tackle climate change problems.
For some years, we have already started research and made early investments in climate science.
Research findings have allowed us to make specific policy formulations and will give policy makers guidance on the need to protect critical infrastructure against rising sea levels and extreme events.
Evidence-based climate policies
In 2013, we had established the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) under the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS). CCRS is one of the few dedicated centres in the region that focuses on research in tropical weather and climate.
Climate science, where it is developed specifically for the tropics, is a new and complex area of research. CCRS develops research expertise in the weather and climate of Singapore and the wider Southeast Asia region. It also undertakes projections of Singapore’s future climate for long-term planning, as well as researches the characteristics and causes of extreme weather.
It has since grown to be one of our region’s most advanced tropical climate research centres.
We are expanding CCRS and will set up a new Programme Office in CCRS this year. The Programme Office will drive the formulation and implementation of our national climate science research masterplan and systematically build up our climate science capabilities in Singapore. CCRS and our research institutes and universities, together, will pursue cutting-edge, inter-disciplinary climate science research. The research will focus on key areas with significant impact on Singapore, including: sea level rise; the impact of climate change on our water resources; and the impact of warming trends on human health and the energy sector.
The Programme Office will oversee the recently-launched National Sea Level Programme. This $10 million Programme will, over the next five years, fund pioneering proposals and collaborations, to help us better understand long-term sea level rise and its variability, regional patterns, and extreme weather events.
Singapore’s Contribution to the Development of Climate Science
Singapore hosted a Scoping Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Singapore in October 2019, together with a meeting of the IPCC Bureau, one of the highest decision-making bodies in the IPCC.
This Scoping Meeting is an important session that will lay the foundation for drafting the next Synthesis Report of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
Climate science tailored to the tropics is still a nascent area of research. Through our efforts, we hope to work more closely with the IPCC to further strengthen and advance the understanding of tropical climates. We will share our knowledge and expertise with countries in our region and work with them to enhance capacity to tackle climate change.
Our Game Plan
Responding to climate change involves two approaches:
- Reducing the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (“mitigation”) as well as
- Adapting to the effects of climate change that is already happening (“adaptation”).
Climate change mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases.
Given our limited potential for alternative energy sources, improving energy efficiency is our key strategy for reducing emissions in all sectors of the economy.
Furthermore, our energy demand is expected to grow in the future due to an expanding economy and a growing population. Much of this growing energy demand can be avoided if we use energy more efficiently, instead of increasing energy production.
Transforming our economy towards a low carbon future
By reducing our CO2 emissions and making use of innovative low-carbon solutions, Singapore can contribute to international efforts to address climate change.
Over the years, we have steadily rolled out a comprehensive suite of measures to reduce emissions across all sectors:
Early Fuel Switch
Since the 2000s, Singapore has progressively switched from fuel oil/diesel to natural gas, a cleaner fuel. Currently, 95% of our electricity is generated from natural gas, up from 26% in 2001.
Among all fossil fuels, natural gas produces the least amount of carbon emissions per unit of electricity. By switching to clean fuel, we have reduced the amount of carbon we release into the atmosphere.
Singapore is the first country in Southeast Asia to introduce a carbon price.
The tax was introduced in 2019 at S$5/tonne of CO2e, and there are no exemptions for covered facilities, to maintain a transparent, fair, and consistent price signal across the economy.
It will incentivise emissions reduction across all sectors and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
We will review the tax rate by 2023, with the intention of increasing the tax rate to between S$10 and S$15/tonne of CO2e by 2030.
In doing so, we will take into account international developments, the progress of our mitigation efforts, and our economic competitiveness.
The Government is prepared to spend more than the estimated S$$1 billion in carbon tax revenue collected in the first five years to support projects that reduce carbon emissions.
Improving our industry energy efficiency
The industry sector accounts for more than half of Singapore’s greenhouse gas emissions. The implementation of energy efficiency projects and good energy management practices not only saves energy, it can also reduce costs for companies.
The Energy Conservation Act has put in place enhanced requirements for large industrial energy users to measure and evaluate their energy performance.
We are targeting for the industry to achieve an energy efficiency improvement rate of 1 to 2% per annum – a rate achieved by leading countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands over the past 10 years.
To assist companies transit to a low-carbon economy, we will use revenue from our carbon tax to provide grants and incentives to help businesses reduce their emissions and become more energy and carbon efficient.
Harnessing more solar power
In Singapore, solar energy is the most promising renewable energy option.
To overcome our land constraints, we are investing in innovative solar technologies, such as floating solar photovoltaic systems on our reservoirs and offshore. These will be among the world’s largest when ready.
JTC has also launched its Solar Land programme to develop and deploy mobile substations and solar panels on temporary land. This allows the system to be redeployed, should the land or space be needed for other uses.
We aim to reach 350 megawatt-peak (MWp) by 2020 and at least two gigawatt-peak (GWp) by 2030 (enough to power around 350,000 Singaporean households a year – more than 10% of the peak daily electricity demand today), and an energy storage deployment target of 200MW beyond 2025.
Greening our transport
Promoting sustainable transport and managing vehicular emissions will also help reduce C02. We promote cleaner vehicles through emissions standards and encourage the early replacement of older and more pollutive vehicles, such as through the Early Turnover Scheme. More than 40,000 commercial diesel vehicles have switched to cleaner vehicles under this scheme.
As part of the Land Transport Master Plan 2040, we aim for nine in 10 peak-period journeys to be made via Walk-Cycle-Ride modes of transport (which include public and shared transport such as taxis and private hire cars), and to have 100% greener, cleaner energy public bus and taxi fleets by 2040.
We are reviewing our policies and working with the industry on various fronts to promote the greater use of greener, cleaner energy private vehicles. We are also enhancing existing transport facilities to make them more environmentally-friendly, and designing and building new land transport, airport and port facilities that are sustainable and green, through incorporating energy efficient and carbon mitigation features and technologies.
Greening our buildings
We are on track to having at least 80% of our buildings (by floor area) achieve Green buildings standards by 2030. We will develop new standards to promote super-low energy, zero-energy, and positive energy buildings to push the boundaries for energy efficiency for buildings in Singapore.
We are striving to harness resource synergies and reduce the carbon footprint in our public infrastructure. We are building a used water and waste treatment plant called Tuas Nexus by 2025, which can integrate water reclamation and waste-to-energy incineration in a single facility, and reduce the amount of energy required in the used water treatment process. This can help us cut down carbon emissions by more than 200,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking more than 42,500 cars off the road.
We aim to reduce waste sent to the landfill each day by 30% by 2030, and achieve an overall national recycling rate of 70% by 2030, from 60% in 2018.
We are working with partners in the public, private and people sectors to move Singapore towards more sustainable production and consumption. This will include the adoption of a circular economy approach to reuse our resources for as long as possible. This will reduce our environmental footprint and strength our resource resilience.
Even with the best efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures, countries are taking adaptation measures to reduce the damaging impact of climate change and increase their resilience to potential future effects.
Singapore is no different.
As a small low-lying island-state, we need to take the impact of climate change very seriously, and invest in resilient infrastructure to safeguard ourselves and our future.
Protecting our coasts from sea level rise
As an island-state and a major port city, Singapore is defined by our coasts. To protect these areas, we have strengthened our defences against coastal erosion and flooding. Today, over 70% of Singapore’s coastline is protected with hard structures such as seawalls and rock slopes.
We expect to invest S$100 billion, or even more, in coastal defences such as sea walls, pumping stations and land reclamation.
We are also making plans for coastal defences to better protect our coastal areas, starting with the more critical segments, in particular, City-East Coast and Jurong Island.
PUB has planned to build a second pump house on the opposite end of the Marina Barrage to pump water out of Marina Reservoir into the sea. When rain falls in the city area, the water can then drain into Marina Reservoir.
For the eastern coastline, some of the options we are considering include the building of polders (which is land reclaimed from the sea) or reclaiming a series of islands offshore, from Marina East all the way to Changi.
Our plan will also incorporate nature-based solutions such as active restoration of our mangrove areas.
Safeguarding Key Infrastructure
Since 2011, we have raised minimum reclamation levels for newly reclaimed lands to at least four metres above the mean sea level, up from three metres previously. Roads near coastal areas, including a stretch of Changi Coast Road and Nicoll Drive, have also been raised to protect them from rising sea levels.
We have also raised the minimum platform levels for new developments and are building critical future developments such as the Changi Airport Terminal 5 and Tuas Terminal mega port at higher platform levels – at least five metres above mean sea level.
Climate change could also affect our underground MRT stations as they will be susceptible to flooding during intense rainfalls. To protect our commuters and rail infrastructure, we have built MRT stations with elevated entrances or installed flood barriers.
Enhancing flood resilience
Since 2011, Singapore has spent $1.8 billion on drainage improvement works to boost our flood resilience. This includes the Stamford Diversion Canal and Stamford Detention Tank completed last year, which significantly enhance the flood protection of the Orchard Road areas. In the next two years, another $400 million will go towards upgrading and maintaining our drains.
Ensuring water resilience
We have invested in research and development, water infrastructures, and diversified Singapore’s water supply to include weather-resilient sources such as NEWater and desalinated water.
Strengthening food security
Singapore imports more than 90% of our food today. This makes us vulnerable to external factors, such as volatilities of the global food market, impacts of climate change, and disease outbreak.
To make our food supply more resilient, we are pursuing three strategies, also known as our three “food baskets”:
- Diversify import sources;
- Grow local; and
- Grow overseas.
To effectively buffer against supply disruptions, we aim to produce 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030.
Investing in research to guide adaptation planning
The Centre for Climate Research Singapore will launch a S$10 million National Sea Level Research Programme over the next five years to develop more robust projections of sea level rise. A new Climate Science Research Programme Office will also be set up to formulate, lead and drive efforts to build up climate science capabilities in Singapore.
Protecting Biodiversity and Greenery
Our trees are an essential part of Singapore’s landscape. But some trees are especially tall and certain species are fragile. This makes them likely to fall or be uprooted in strong gales or periods of heavy rain.
To ensure that our trees are in good health and resilient to climate change, the National Parks Board (NParks) inspects trees along major roads and areas with high human activity at least once a year. If needed, trees are pruned to reduce the size and weight of their crowns so they can better withstand strong winds. Storm-vulnerable trees have also been replaced with hardier species. NParks also studies tree uprooting to better diagnose its causes.
To protect Singapore’s marine biodiversity, NParks established Singapore’s first marine park at the Sisters’ Islands in 2014. The marine park is an ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered marine animals. Other measures to protect Singapore’s biodiversity include restoring mangrove areas in Singapore.
Protecting Public Health
Climate change also poses threats to our health. For example, changes in the weather pattern, such as temperature increase, could create prime conditions for mosquitoes to breed and viruses to replicate faster, leading to an increase in the infective vector population and transmission of dengue. We have already seen similar trends in late 2015, when there was a spike in dengue cases partly due to weather changes caused by the El Niño.
Currently, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has in place a nation-wide programme to fight dengue – but we will need to do more as we prepare for harsher conditions in the future. While innovative solutions such as Wolbachia technology could help to suppress the mosquito population, sustained efforts by the community to eradicate mosquito breeding habitats remain key to preventing dengue.
Enhancing our Built Environment
It is essential for the buildings we live and work in to be protected from the effects of climate change. Analyses so far have indicated that the structural integrity of buildings in Singapore will not be affected by the projected changes in temperature, rainfall, and wind speeds as long as the buildings adhere to building codes and are properly maintained. As many buildings in Singapore are constructed and maintained by private developers and owners, the private sector plays an indispensable role in helping us keep our buildings safe. BCA and the Housing & Development Board (HDB) are conducting additional studies to further understand the potential effects of higher temperatures, rainfall, and wind speeds on buildings and building attachments, to recommend adaptation measures to enhance the resilience of our buildings.
The Green Mark Scheme is the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) green building rating system, tailored for the tropics and sub-tropics. It evaluates and sets benchmarks for environmental sustainability in buildings. To enhance current efforts to green existing buildings, BCA and Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) have collaborated to develop the Zero Capital Partnership scheme, which provides a “zero capital” solution for building owners to carry out energy efficiency retrofits for buildings. These efforts will contribute to Singapore’s aim of making 80% of all buildings green by 2030.
Everyone can make a difference to fight climate change! Here are 3 simple ways you can reduce your energy usage and carbon emissions.
#1 – Increase your air-conditioner temperature by 1oC
Less energy is used by your air-conditioner when you increase the temperature setting. For every degree raised, you can save an additional $15 a year!
#2 – Reduce your shower time by 2 minutes
Doing so saves you close to 14 litres of water each time! Conserving water also reduces the energy needed to treat and deliver water to homes.
#3 – Practise the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Right
By practising the 3Rs, we can reduce the amount of waste we generate and incinerate, which reduces carbon emissions.
Become Part of the National Effort to Tackle Climate Change
Organisations can play their part in reducing emissions by understanding the environmental impact of their business operations and by adopting carbon-friendly measures and practices.
Be Part of the Solution
Your organisation can help in the fight against climate change in a number of ways. As part of practising corporate social responsibility (CSR), you can take steps to reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint or organise activities to promote community and stakeholder action on climate change.
You can also get involved in the adoption and/or development of green technology solutions aimed at reducing your corporate carbon footprint.
Incentive schemes to help companies be more energy efficient