17 September 2008

Singapore and rising sea levels discussed in parliament

Parliament discussed rising seas on 15 Sep 08. There was a brief report of this in the Straits Times, and a much fuller report in the New Paper online today.

Seems Singapore is OK so long as we don't "factor in the rapid melting of Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets". And why don't we factor this in? "The understanding of these effects is too limited."

A study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography released on 15 Sep 08 found that the planet is "already committed to 2.4 degree C rise from climate change". It also pointed out that "the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that a rise in global temperature by 1 to 3°C will lead to catastrophic consequences, including “widespread deglaciation of the Greenland Ice Sheet".

How much will sea levels rise if Greenland Ice Sheet melts? From the above study, "long-term exposure (thousands of years) of the Greenland Ice Sheet to a minimum warming between 1.9–4.6°C will lead to a complete melt of Greenland. Such a melt would raise sea levels by seven meters".

Sea levels may rise: But Singapore's okay
by Teh Jen Lee in The New Paper 17 Sep 08
full article also on the wildsingapore news blog

Some extracts ...
Minister Yaacob Ibrahim answered both MPs by first stating that the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected last year that climate change could lead to sea level rises of between 18cm and 59cm by the year 2100.

This does not factor in the rapid melting of Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets, as the understanding of these effects is too limited.

Since 1991, all new reclamation projects have to be built to a level 125cm above the highest recorded tide level.

This is 66cm more than the IPCC's projected highest sea level rise of 59cm by the end of the 21stcentury in the worst-case scenario.

Singapore's development of drainage infrastructure over the last 30 years has reduced flood-prone areas from 3,200 ha in the '70s to 98ha today.

PUB will reduce it to less than 48 ha by 2011 through the development and improvement of drainage infrastructure, such as the widening and deepening of drains and canals.

While the objective of this is to reduce the flood-prone areas and alleviate flooding today, a better drainage system helps to reduce the possibility of upstream flooding when heavy rain coincides with high tide or sea level rise.

In addition, the National Environment Agency, in consultation with other government agencies, commissioned a two-year study last year to understand the specific implications of climate change in Singapore, based on the IPCC studies.

These include sea level and temperature changes, flooding and coastal erosion. The study is expected to be completed next year.

Earth already committed to 2.4 degree C rise from climate change
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com 15 Sep 08;
full article also on the wildsingapore news blog

Some extracts ...
As of 2005 the Earth was already committed to rise of global mean temperatures by 2.4°C (4.3°F), concludes a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers estimate the long-term exposure (thousands of years) of the Greenland Ice Sheet to a minimum warming between 1.9–4.6°C will lead to a complete melt of Greenland. Such a melt would raise sea levels by seven meters (23 feet).

Air pollution masking climate change

Ramanathan and Feng also explore a question often raised by skeptics: "Why hasn't the planet yet felt the full force of climate change?" So far, the planet has experienced a mean warming of 0.76°C since the late 1800s.

The scientists conclude that a variety of factors are masking the full effect of climate change; one of the most significant of which is air pollution. Some types of air pollution send aerosols that reflect light like a mirror, brightening the planet and thereby cooling it. The pollutants ability to mask rising temperatures has been estimated at 47 percent. However, as nations clean up their skies, the masking effects of such pollutants disappear causing the Earth to undergo sudden warming. The researchers state that this relationship between dwindling air pollutants and higher temperatures can already be seen in Europe.

More links
Here's some past media articles about this issue
Want to say something about this?Sustainable Singapore is an effort to gather public feedback by end October about what Singapore and Singaporeans can do about climate change. More about this in an earlier post.

1 comment:

  1. singapore is always so stubborn! why wait until there it's irrevocable proof? by then it'd be too late and we'll have to shell out millions of taxpayers money to do something which we can save a whole lot doing if we do it with foresight. gah

    understandably from a policy stand point, just like any kind of hazard management, if u overanticipate the impact (since "little is known" as of now), you will feel like you wasted money. but if you underanticipate, you have to pay double to fix it so the "natural" thing to do is to not do anything. this is quite typical for sg. seems like the only kind of foresight we have is for attracting money. this kinda prevention type things stupifies us i think. imho.

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