More green, less concrete the cool way to go

It is good that the Government will be implementing a carbon tax from next year ($5 per tonne carbon tax 'fair' for firms: Masagos; Feb 23) and that Singapore will be aiming to slash greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 36 per cent, by 2030 (Getting S'pore to go green; June 7, 2017).

Unfortunately, carbon emissions are not the only factor in the climate change equation.

Other important factors are the carbon and ultraviolet (UV) sink - that is, our trees - as well as concrete on the ground.

It is like flogging a dead horse if one were to curb carbon emissions but reduce the carbon sink by cutting trees, and increasing the use of concrete.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, UV light and cool us down. Concrete retains heat and UV temporarily, and then releases it and heats us up.

Urban temperatures can be 3 to10 deg C higher than in forested areas.

The National Parks Board (NParks) has planted 40,000 trees every year since 2015, and 50,000 last year (Replacing lost trees, March 19, 2017; and Weak trees felled to ensure safety, Jan 14) and yet, it is in the years since then that we have had the highest temperature and highest UV index (UV levels in Singapore hit 'extreme' level, Feb 23; and S'pore warming faster than average, Sept 29, 2017). We have even had hailstones and flash floods.

Is it a coincidence that in those years, extensive deforestation occurred in Changi, Bidadari, Tampines, Jurong, Punggol, Bukit Brown and Lentor?

Clearly, something is not right and, despite our efforts, our climate equation is not balanced.

Let's not be like the fabled frog sitting in slowly boiling water and, because we are comfortable, ignore warning signs until, one day, we are all cooked.

Singapore has designated 2018 the Year of Climate Action. We can all act to reduce, recycle, repurpose, and stop using disposables.

Maybe the rich can outbid developers, buy up land and leave them green.

Perhaps our Government can lead the way and repurpose some land for building into land for planting.

My fear is that with further deforestation and concretisation still to come in the building of new developments, the environment will be dealt a double blow and more unwelcome records will be set.

NParks is doing a wonderful job replacing trees cut down. Perhaps the ratio needs to be increased.

It has already done us proud by making Singapore one of the greenest cities in the world.

Can we go further and make Singapore one of the coolest?

Jackson Winifred Yap Quee Lan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2018, with the headline 'More green, less concrete the cool way to go'. Print Edition | Subscribe