$25 million committed to marine climate change science research

The research will help shape measures to enhance marine ecosystem resilience against climate change.
The research will help shape measures to enhance marine ecosystem resilience against climate change.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Marine climate change science (MCCS) has been given a $25 million boost to tackle problems like rising sea levels, increasing sea surface temperatures, and extreme storm events.

The government funding will go to a MCCS research programme led by the National Parks Board (NParks), which involves government agencies, research institutes and industry partners.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee announced the programme on Friday (March 26) at the Urban Sustainability R&D e-Symposia 2021, in the first of a series of webinars that will take place over a year.

Due to Covid-19, the webinar series is being held in place of the biennial Urban Solutions and Sustainability R&D Congress, which brings together the research community, government agencies and industry partners.

The multidisciplinary programme's research efforts will focus on three areas: ecological resilience, eco-engineering and blue carbon.

Research on the impact of climate change on marine species, habitats, ecosystems and connectivity will help shape measures to enhance marine ecosystem resilience against climate change. This will aid in safeguarding natural marine capital through science-based approaches.

Eco-engineering research will identify sustainable engineering measures and the incorporation of nature-based solutions such as creating new marine habitats, in order to protect coastal regions against sea level rise and extreme storm events.

Finally, blue carbon research will focus on developing a marine carbon credits economy in Singapore for carbon trading, which essentially treats carbon as a commodity.

Blue carbon trading will achieve two objectives simultaneously: reducing carbon emissions, and conserving the natural environment, said Mr Lee.

On top of these three areas, NParks said the MCCS programme also aims to develop predictive models for projecting how climate change may alter existing biogeochemical processes in Singapore's marine environment.

The programme will also explore how the social sciences can add important methods and perspectives towards climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Funding for the programme comes from the $25 billion sum set aside under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plan announced by the National Research Foundation (NRF) last December. The entire sum has been devoted to researching four main areas from 2021 to 2025.

Apart from Urban Solutions and Sustainability, which was the focus of Friday's e-Symposia, the other three pillars are manufacturing, trade and connectivity, human health and potential, and Smart Nation and digital economy.

Other projects announced by Mr Lee on Friday include studies on reducing energy consumption and waste footprint of desalination, and the incorporation of social sciences into city planning.

In what was called a "first of its kind" project by the minister, a multidisciplinary multi-institute team led by Nanyang Technological University has been awarded close to $2 million to study the built environment's impact on resident well-being.

This will be done by combining social science knowledge with big data and analytics, said Mr Lee.

The team aims to identify emerging social trends, gaps in research, and further understanding of societal shifts to develop solutions to improve city planning and design.

"We aspire to build a city that not only meets our physical needs, but that also enables us to forge strong relationships and deep emotional connections with each other," said Mr Lee.

Meanwhile, national water agency PUB awarded close to $11 million to six projects using funding from the previous round of RIE funding, which was set aside for 2016 to 2020.

The projects include technologies to improve both the pre- and post-treatment processes for seawater desalination, to achieve water sustainability.