SINGAPORE - The impact of the changing climate has caught the attention of more Singaporeans, with a large majority indicating that they were willing to bear additional costs and inconvenience to safeguard the planet for future generations.
These were among the key findings of a poll on climate change perceptions among Singaporeans and permanent residents, released on Monday (Dec 16) by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), which is part of the Prime Minister's Office.
This climate change perception survey has been conducted by the Government once every two years since 2011.
The latest edition of the survey, conducted face to face with 1,000 Singapore residents aged 15 and above earlier this year, found that over 90 per cent were aware of climate change and its impacts, such as ecosystem destruction, as well as rising temperatures and sea levels.
Almost 95 per cent of respondents said they have heard of, read, or come across the terms climate change and global warming in this year’s survey, up from 89.5 per cent in 2017 and 80.6 per cent in 2015.
And almost four in five (78.2 per cent) of those polled were prepared to play their part towards a low-carbon Singapore, even if they have to bear some additional costs and inconvenience as consumers. NCCS' summary of key findings did not include examples of what such costs and inconvenience could entail.
But Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) member Swati Mandloi said such costs could involve paying more for electricity from a green retailer, for instance, or waiting an extra five minutes under a sheltered bus stop on a rainy day if one opts to take public transport instead of driving.
She added: “The point is that Singaporeans said they were willing to do it, and it is encouraging because when they take the responsibility, governments and businesses will have no choice but to do the same.”
The Straits Times understands that the question on willingness to bear costs and inconvenience was included for the first time this year.
Overall, while the NCCS survey reflected the global trend on climate change awareness among people here, the Singapore survey showed some were not sure what they could do to tackle the issue.
Less than half of those polled (48.3 per cent) said they knew what they could do to address climate change. Still, people here were trying to do their bit by making changes where they could, the survey showed.
More were practising environmentally friendly actions at home, compared with findings from the earlier survey in 2017.
For instance, more said they were saving water (90.7 per cent, up from 85.8 per cent) and reducing food wastage and tracking food expiration (79.7 per cent, up from 77.6 per cent).
About 91 per cent, the same proportion as in 2017, said they switched off electrical appliances at the wall socket when not in use.
In terms of how such actions could translate into making a difference to global climate change, about six in 10 saying they strongly believed that individual action could make a difference in the climate fight.
The NCCS said respondents indicated that they thought tackling climate change required the effort of all parties, including the Government, business, individuals, as well as non-government groups.
Concern about the liveability of the planet for the future generations was a key motivator for those surveyed, a marked change from survey findings in 2017 that had showed saving money as a key reason for taking climate action.
The latest survey also showed that 84.8 per cent of respondents strongly believed that climate change is already happening and will affect our future generations if nothing is done.
Said NCCS: “Addressing climate change is a whole-of-society effort... The Government will continue to encourage collective climate action, and work closely with businesses and citizens to co-create solutions to build a resilient and sustainable Singapore.”
Ms Pui Cuifen, a member of the Foodscape Collective, a community for sustainable food systems, said the overall results of the survey was encouraging.
“It is interesting to see the increase in general awareness among the randomly selected individuals in the Singapore community, and to see that people are now selecting ‘more liveable environment’ over ‘save money’ as a key motivator for taking action,” she said.
Climate activists acknowledged that tackling climate change requires the effort of different parties. However, they say the release of the full survey results would help the non-government sector determine how else they can contribute to raising awareness.
Said climate champion Nor Lastrina Hamid: “I am aware the respondents feel that the government still has the largest role to play in fighting climate change, and that community groups and non-government organisations have the smallest role to play.
“What it does not tell me is in what role or capacity we all played in, and how that contributed to people’s awareness of climate action. I wonder how we can better engage members of the public, be it in terms of outreach, capacity-building, or having something more strategic to push for policy changes.
“What can non-government organisations do to help people transit from being aware to actually feeling care for the environment and taking climate action?” added Ms Lastrina, calling on NCCS to release more detailed findings from the survey.
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said the survey findings showed that most Singaporeans recognise the urgency of environmental issues.
On how this could translate into policy, Professor Tan said: “The need to take action could serve as ‘new norms’ with which to nudge others who are not taking this seriously to join in, and help bring the figures up to close to 100 per cent, if not a 100 per cent.”
He added that future studies should focus more on capturing behaviour, to see if people would actually do what they said they would.
Concern about the liveability of the planet for the future generations was a key motivator for those surveyed, with 84.8 per cent said that they strongly believed that climate change is already happening and will affect our future generations if nothing is done.
Said the NCCS: "Addressing climate change is a whole-of-society effort... The Government will continue to encourage collective climate action, and work closely with businesses and citizens to co-create solutions to build a resilient and sustainable Singapore."