26 August 2019

Prof Wong Poh Poh's comments on PM's speech on climate change and rising seas

Prof Wong Poh Poh had asked me to share on wildsingapore, his thoughts about PM Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech on climate change and rising sea levels.
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Here are Prof Wong's comments without any changes. I absolutely agree with his points 4-6, and learned so much from his other points.

Prof Wong Poh Poh's comments:

With respect to the PM’s National Day Rally speech which also deals with sea level rise (SLR) and subsequent commentaries, I wish to add the following points on the adaptation to SLR :

1) Like other small island states in the Pacific, extreme high tides are affecting Singapore’s coasts (See photograph : Feb 1974, 3.9 m; Dec 1999, >3.4 m; Dec 2011, >3.4 m).

2) SLR would be difficult to predict and even for a small island like Singapore, RSLR (Relative SLR) is more relevant (e.g. Johor Straits compared to more open southern coast).

3) A clear understanding of and relating the methods, strategies, and adaptation pathways is required in addressing SLR in the long-term. Question : Would Singapore and Johor agree to close up the Johor Straits at the eastern and western ends to address SLR in the distant future?

4) More attention should be given to methods imitating natural processes, e.g. “living with water”, “building with nature”.

5) Low-cost Nature-based solutions (NbS) can be important in the earlier stages of SLR and for some coasts. “Living shorelines” can be considered too.

6) As sea level rises, newly created micro-coastal topography should be considered as opportunity. This is often overlooked.

7) The floatation principle should be explored further, e.g. floating and amphibious structures, e.g. Maasbommel, Netherlands. New materials have provided greater scope in this area. See ICAADE meetings.

8) The cost of adaptation/protection will still be uncertain (not $100 billion) but there is time to do the adaptation/protection given the fact of new technology, innovations and thinking out of the box. And impacts and implications for socio-economic aspects will have to depend on good science and good governance.


Prof Wong Poh Poh is currently Visiting Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, University of Adelaide. He is also the Lead Author and Coordinating Lead Author in IPCC 3rd, 4th and 5th Assessment Reports; and Contributing Author in Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.


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