Is S'pore ready for rising sea levels?

Nicoll Drive is being raised by up to 80cm, in anticipation of rising sea levels brought on by climate change. To mitigate coastal erosion, seawalls and rock slopes near the coasts have also been installed.
Nicoll Drive is being raised by up to 80cm, in anticipation of rising sea levels brought on by climate change. To mitigate coastal erosion, seawalls and rock slopes near the coasts have also been installed.ST FILE PHOTO

Govt has introduced measures to help the island nation adapt to climate change

Reader Pairoj Jirundorn had read about the trend of rising sea levels because of climate change and wrote in to askST: "The impact could be so serious that some major cities around the world could be drowned in the future. Will that really happen to Singapore? If yes, how soon? Are we fully prepared for such a scenario ?"

Environment reporter Audrey Tan answers.

The symptoms of climate change are clear: Floods, droughts and heat waves are affecting countries around the world.

A warming earth is also causing sheets of ice at the poles to melt, and a new study published recently in science journal Nature had predicted that a rapidly melting glacier atop East Antarctica is on track to lift oceans by at least 2m.

Singapore, being an island nation, would likely be affected by such a phenomenon, although a spokesman for the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) pointed out the sea-level rise is expected to be a gradual process that will take place over several decades.

According to the projections from Singapore's Second National Climate Change Study, the mean sea level is estimated to rise by up to about 1m by 2100.

Still, the Government has already introduced measures to help the city state adapt to climate change.

In 2011, for example, the authorities here raised the minimum reclamation level to at least 4m above mean sea level - an increase of 1m.

Selected roads, such as Changi Coast Road and Nicoll Drive, have also been raised to reduce the impact of flooding. To mitigate coastal erosion, seawalls and rock slopes near the coasts have also been installed.

"Given that climate science and projections are still evolving, the Government will continue to review our adaptation plans," said the MEWR spokesman.

For one thing, the Building and Construction Authority is conducting a Coastal Adaptation Study, which will provide long-term recommendations on how to better protect our coastal areas. The study is expected to conclude next year.

With the Paris climate pact now in force, Singapore is also doing its part to curb its emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases which cause climate change.

It plans to do so by promoting greater energy efficiency in the domestic and industrial sectors; pushing for more green buildings; aiming for the petrochemical industry to continually upgrade using the least pollutive and most efficient technologies available, as well as improving public transport.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'Is S'pore ready for rising sea levels?'. Print Edition | Subscribe