The melting of our polar caps and the concomitant rising of sea-levels must worry Singaporeans. It is estimated that the flooding of coastal cities from rising sea-levels could affect 600 million people across the globe. NASA estimates that low-lying cities like Singapore and Japan will be submerged underwater by the end of the century if current global warming trends continue.
In fact, climatologists warn that if drastic measures are not taken soon, we could see global warming becoming an uncontrollable phenomenon as early as the middle of this century. That is, there is a trigger point after which there is little that we can do that will halt the deteriorating process. (If one thinks that this is still many years away, one need only be reminded that three decades from now is the same amount of time as – for those of us old enough to remember – when Michael Jackson's We Are The World became a worldwide hit or when Apple launched its Macintosh PC.)
In view of such impending disaster, what is the PAP doing? Will its policies alleviate or exacerbate the problem? How will the actions of this government affect the future of our nation?
As he left for Paris to attend the climate change summit yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: "What we have in Singapore is a well-designed future-ready city built on sound economic principles. And we can actually show the world how you can save money, make a living and save the world at the same time.”
Save the world? Actually, I'd just like to see the PAP answer some questions. Take the immigration policy. Singapore's population, unlike others of coastal cities, is especially vulnerable. We have no hinterland to which our citizens can escape and find refuge should our coastline start to recede from rising sea waters.
And yet, the PAP is looking to increase our population size. Has the government examined this problem in its entirety? Judging by the MRT breakdowns, lack of planning of housing for foreign workers, and the housing price bubble that has occurred Singaporeans have cause to worry.
To cater for the added population, we have had to reclaim more land, dig more tunnels and pour more concrete – all of which have altered the terrain of this island and may have contributed to the floods that we have witnessed in recent years.
Another fast-evolving situation which requires our urgent attention is our position as an oil-refining and petrochemical production centre. While it may have been hugely beneficial for us to build our country into the oil hub that we are today – the industry is responsible for one-third of our manufacturing output and 5 percent of GDP – we must also be aware that the burning of fossil fuels is the number one contributor of greenhouse gases. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Singapore has the largest carbon footprint per head in the Asia-Pacific. WWF President Yolanda Kakabadse said: "Singapore...is a society that maybe is one of the best examples of what we should not do.”
Given the circumstance, should we start thinking of alternative modes of deriving our national income? The reality is that we may not have a choice. Already, industries involved in the production of renewable-energy such as Solar City in the United States and Goldwind in China are making significant technological strides so much so that the price of electricity derived from wind and solar power are now competitive with, if not cheaper than, that produced by coal and gas.
The pace of technological development of more efficient and cheaper production of renewal energy will only quicken from here on out.
When the demand for oil is eventually overtaken by the desire for renewables, what do we do? Are we looking at alternatives or are we buryng our heads in the sand and simply increasing our capacity to refine and store more oil?
Another policy which is contributing to climate change is the fact that Singapore has become a tax haven where billionaires find it expedient to park their fortunes. Many of the super-rich in Singapore come from Indonesia. I would wager that some of these tycoons are involved in the palm-oil industry which is responsible for the burning of enormous tracts of rainforest in Sumatra to clear land for the cultivation of the crop.
The deforestation, facilitated by corruption, kills endangered species and produces the pollution which contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect. More importantly, the haze envelops Singapore and endangers the health of our people.
It is important that the PAP Government scrutinises the bank accounts of some of these individuals and ensures that we are not unwittingly aiding and abetting such a criminal act and facilitating the haze problem.
There is another important reason why we should support the global effort to wean human kind off the reliance on oil. The situation in Iraq and the rise of ISIS is due, in part at least, to the international play for lucrative oil-fields in the region. The current standoff between China and neighbouring countries over the Spratly Islands is caused by speculation that there are oil and natural gas reserves underneath the South China Sea. In both cases, Singapore could be inadvertently dragged into conflict.
The direction for Singapore's future in as far as global warming is concerned and the challenges we face are complex. The solutions not easily discovered. This is added reason for us to address the matter with great urgency because, like it or not, the problem is real, it is acute and it is upon us.
This article was submitted to the Straits Times for publication but was rejected.