The Straits Times says

Facing up to an existential challenge

It is reassuring that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's most recent remarks on climate change at his National Day Rally speech struck a chord with many Singaporeans. About four in 10 people polled said that they were more concerned about the issue after having listened to the Rally speech. The majority, or 57 per cent, said that they were just as concerned as they had been before the speech. Read together, these results testify to a high degree of public consciousness about the calamitous effects of climate change on countries, with rising sea levels in particular posing an existential threat to an island-state such as Singapore. It is time now to match the national response to the urgency of the ecological threat.

Mr Lee has estimated that Singapore would need about $100 billion, perhaps more, to protect itself from rising sea levels in the coming decades. This is a massive amount even if it is to be spent over 100 years. But that time span gives Singapore the option of calibrating its financial response to the encroaching threat. In the short term, funding for projects, such as a $400 million upgrade to the drainage systems to boost resilience to floods, will come from ministry-level expenditure. In the longer term, however, the Government could tap other sources and possibly issue state bonds. Given that protection from climate change is a form of intergenerational transfer like almost no other, it is only fair that future generations bear an equitable share of paying for the borrowings made by this generation to keep Singapore habitable for them.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'Facing up to an existential challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe