Concerted effort needed to tackle climate change

A dried-up lily pond at Pasir Ris Park, on Aug 21, 2019.
A dried-up lily pond at Pasir Ris Park, on Aug 21, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Climate change and environmental woes now constitute a long-term existential threat for many nations, and eventually for the whole world.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested we need to spend $100 billion over the next 100 years to mitigate it. For Singapore, a threat of this scale and nature requires well-coordinated efforts involving every one of us.

First, we need to identify all man-made factors, such as policies, mindsets, priorities and behaviours that exacerbate the woes, and conversely, those that could reverse or improve the situation.

For example, what is the optimal economic or population growth we should achieve so as not to speed up the deterioration of our environment? Also, what are the opportunity costs of over-conservation?

We need to cultivate a culture of sharing. What are the hindrances to the development of such a culture? Once our sharing culture is at a high level, we could cut down on buying many types of equipment and services.

We must make the best use of new technologies. We should set a target on the percentage of electric cars on the roads and number of households using solar and other non-fossil fuel energy. We should examine why we use big buses during off-peak hours. These buses are almost empty for most of the day. Are smaller electric buses a better option?

Re-examine our urban planning blueprint to see how we could cut short the journey from home to workplace. For example, how many people staying in the east of the island travel to the west to work, and vice versa?

We could also speed up research on developing underground habitats and floating cities.

It requires a holistic, whole-of-government effort to study and implement ideas to make the best use of our resources with minimal adverse impact on the environment in the long term. An independent high-level multi-ministry committee staffed with full-time experts and professionals may be needed to undertake this huge task.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2019, with the headline 'Concerted effort needed to tackle climate change'. Print Edition | Subscribe