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The Straits Times says

The bells are tolling on climate change

The evidence continues to mount about the alarming march of climate change. According to scientists at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent - two key indicators - have broken records in the first half of 2016, when each month set a record as the warmest, respective to a table that goes back to 1880. Dr James Hansen, the former Nasa scientist credited with raising public awareness of climate change, says global temperatures have risen to levels not seen in 115,000 years. Unchecked, the planet will soon be too hot to hold people.

Action clearly is required. Dr Hansen and a group of scientists have estimated that the world will require between US$104 trillion (S$151 trillion) and US$507 trillion over the coming century to undertake the so-called "CO2 extraction" required merely to keep up with last year's Paris Accord benchmarks and prevent runaway climate change.

That is a frighteningly large commitment for the coming generations to make at a time when their attention is likely to be fixed on the massive disruptions to their lives and livelihood caused by technology's swift march. It can only be hoped that the sharing economy and scientific developments such as additive manufacturing, by cutting waste and trimming demand, will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions believed to be at the root of the climate change process.

While there is little time to lose, it is worrying that the United States will soon be led by a president who is a noted sceptic of climate change.

President-elect Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax and a Chinese conspiracy against US manufacturing, and pronounced himself not a believer in "man-made climate change". In the wake of his stunning victory, his key appointments to the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are people who, like him, are notable sceptics of the climate change consensus.

The silver lining is that, in spite of Mr Trump's threat to pull the US out of the Paris climate change agreement, other big emitters such as China and India have vowed to stay with it. Indeed, fear of Mr Trump's rise may even have sped up turning the Paris agreement into a platform for international action. His Republicans are something of an anomaly among conservatives around the world because many tend to live in denial, unlike the rest.

That said, he recently met former US vice-president Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, two stalwarts in the fight against global warming. If they have failed to convince him, perhaps he might yet heed the warnings of experts who have said that his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida would be underwater some day if the phenomenon was not checked. Climate change is simply too important to be left to sceptics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'The bells are tolling on climate change'. Print Edition | Subscribe