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Singapore gears up for climate change

Exercise will study measures needed to help public infrastructure adapt to higher temperatures, rise in sea level.

SINGAPORE: Details on getting the Republic’s roads, drains, airport and other infrastructure ready for climate change will be firmed up from 2016, as government agencies examine how public infrastructure must adapt to higher temperatures, more intense rainfall, rise in sea level and stronger winds.

The extent of rises in sea level that roads can withstand and the type of adaptation measures needed will be studied, for example.

The exercise will take place under a resilience framework that puts climate change risks and adaptation under sharper focus than before. It will take into account findings such as those of Singapore’s second National Climate Change Study, which will project climate parameters in greater detail.

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said it had developed the framework to identify, assess and mitigate climate change risks in May, following the President’s Address at the reopening of the 12th Parliament.

The authorities learnt from countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia, which have similar frameworks, said spokespersons from the MEWR and Ministry of National Development on Monday (July 7).

Deciding what is adequate and effective is “not straightforward and it’s not a trivial matter”, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan to about 260 scientists, policymakers, students and private-sector representatives at a regional outreach event organised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Singapore Government.

This is due to uncertainties in the science, economics and political process surrounding climate change, he added. Despite advances in technology, “science will have gaps, knowledge will be updated and decisions will have to be reviewed and changed as time goes on”.

The South-east Asian region is highly vulnerable and there is an urgent need to update our understanding of the climate system and its impact on future livelihoods and security, said Dr Balakrishnan.

There are also knowledge gaps for the region — studies about the impact of climate change on the monsoon season are lacking, for instance, said Professor Fredolin Tangang of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, who is vice-chair of the IPCC Working Group that authored the physical science basis of its latest assessment report.

More environmental economists are also needed to calculate the costs and benefits of various scenarios, said Prof Wong Poh Poh, coordinating lead author of the chapter on coastal systems and low-lying areas as well as the only Singaporean scientist among the report’s authors.

Other experts noted the vast business opportunities that climate change offers.

Chemistry and material sciences can make a big difference in solar energy and battery storage, smarter grids can better connect consumers and suppliers of electricity, while there is potential for big improvements to crops grown for energy uses, said Prof Jim Skea of Imperial College London and vice-chair of the IPCC working group on mitigation of climate change.

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