ST climate change webinar: Public education, living sustainably key to cutting carbon emissions

Once people understand that greenhouse gas emissions cause sea levels to rise, they can begin to think about living more sustainably.
Once people understand that greenhouse gas emissions cause sea levels to rise, they can begin to think about living more sustainably.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Good public education is necessary to help individuals understand the root cause of rising sea levels so that they can do their part in cutting down greenhouse gas emissions.

This means that people would have to change the way they live to reduce their carbon footprint, said panellists at The Straits Times webinar Climate Change- Rising Sea Levels on Wednesday (April 21).

Professor Benjamin Horton, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University, said: "If you understand what the problem is... you are more likely to act on it, rather than being told what to do."

Once people understand that the cause of sea-level rise is a result of greenhouse gas emissions, they can then begin to think about living more sustainably, he added.

He was responding to a question posed by the audience on what individuals can do to prevent sea-level rise in Singapore.

"It's commonly said here in Singapore that we only contribute to 0.1 per cent of the global carbon budget, but as an individual, our carbon emissions are quite high - they're twice the global average of carbon (emissions)," said Prof Horton.

If Singapore as a whole is aiming to lower its emissions, each individual has to reduce his or her carbon emissions by 75 per cent, he noted.

"That can't happen tomorrow, but as an individual, you can think, 'How can I reduce my carbon consumption over the next year by 5 per cent?'" he added.

Some examples Prof Horton cited include consuming vegetarian meals for a couple of days each week, using a bicycle, and ensuring that we turn off our electricity.

On a community level, more can be done to preserve and enhance our green spaces as having good air quality is not only beneficial to one's health, but can also help to withdraw carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the ground.

Dr Zeng Yiwen, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore's Centre for Nature-Based Climate Solutions, cited other examples of how Singaporeans will have to change the way their way of life.

Aside from taking public transport more frequently, getting more involved in nature, such as by taking part in tree-planting initiatives, can also help individuals appreciate the value of nature.

In terms of understanding Singapore's coastal adaptation plans, Ms Hazel Khoo, director of the coastal protection department at national water agency PUB, hopes that Singaporeans can take on "a more participatory role" in sharing their ideas on what can be done to reshape the country's coastlines so that Singapore can continue to remain sustainable in years to come.