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Big impact on Singapore with extra 0.5 deg C rise

The Straits Times by AUDREY TAN

It may not make a difference to many when the thermostat at home is turned up by 0.5 deg C, but this increase would have a significant impact on the climate for a country like Singapore.

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in Incheon, South Korea, yesterday showed that warming of 2 deg C instead of 1.5 deg C could see sea levels rise by some 10cm more.

Singapore's Second National Climate Change Study had projected mean sea level in the Republic could rise by as much as 1m by 2100.

Climate scientist Winston Chow said while the report does not change core conclusions from Singapore's previous national assessments in terms of sea level rise, temperature and rainfall projections, it provides a useful update.

Assistant Professor Chow, who is from the National University of Singapore and was in Incheon, added that having more precise information, such as how rates of sea level rise depend on the degree of global warming, could better inform how Singapore adapts.

The IPCC report also highlighted a significant decline in crop yields in South-east Asia and reduced nutritional value of rice under a 2 deg C increase. This finding could have repercussions on Singapore's food security, said Prof Chow. El Nino events - phenomena that bring hot and dry weather to this part of the world - would likely become more extreme and frequent, even under 1.5 deg C conditions, he added.

Mr Dave Lommen, a volunteer from the Singapore chapter of international climate group 350.org, said climate change could also result in people from more vulnerable countries seeking refuge here.

The latest report also laid out four 1.5 deg C scenarios on how best to fight climate change, including reducing energy demand and making changes in consumption habits, such as eating less meat. Two other strategies involve sucking carbon dioxide out of the air through large-scale reforestation, use of biofuels or direct carbon capture.

A spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said Singapore had, under the Paris Agreement, committed to implementing a range of mitigation measures across various sectors to reduce emissions.

He added: "This includes improving our industrial energy efficiency and greening our buildings. We also announced the implementation of a carbon tax from 2019."

Ms Sarah Ichioka from 350.org urged individuals to play their part by taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and improve health, such as taking public transport and switching to a plant-based diet.

Prof Chow said another key lesson for Singapore is climate change adaptation. "Our current adaptation measures, such as urban vegetation and the maintenance of drainage to reduce flooding from extreme rainfall events, are highly likely to become more expensive in a 2 deg C warming situation compared with a 1.5 deg C one," he said.

"As we may reach these thresholds within a generation, it is in our, and the world's, best interest to keep warming to a minimum."