What is climate change? Is Singapore safe from the effects of global warming? In the spirit of Earth Day (April 22), we’ve come up with easy-to-comprehend answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about global warming.
Judging by the recent spate of winter storms in Europe and the US, isn’t the globe getting colder, not warmer?
Here’s the thing: global warming isn’t solely about rising temperatures at particular times and places; it refers to the recent rise of the average temperature near the Earth’s surface, causing changes in climate patterns. This means, deserts will be drier, storms will be stronger, and snowfall will get heavier.
Meh. It won’t affect where I live, right? Geographically, Singapore will always be safe from natural disasters!
Err … do you not live on planet Earth? In fact, we have been experiencing the effects of climate change. According to the National Climate Change Secretariat, our annual average surface temperature has risen 0.8° since 1948. In early March this year, the National Environment Agency announced February 2014 as our record-making driest month since 1869.
Not forgetting the marked rise of dengue cases here. Dengue is usually recorded during warmer periods of the year; the prolonged dry spell we experienced earlier this year was a major contributing factor to the upsurge. Perhaps an even more obvious impact is the unprecedented haze pollution that blanketed our nation last year.
Singapore is as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as any other country on this planet – never doubt that. You just don’t mess with Mother Nature.
Sounds like it’s all up to Mother Nature, then. We can’t control killer storms, can we?
Actually, NASA may one day develop a storm-steering technology, but that’s beside the point. To understand how we can help adapt to and prevent the worsening of climate change, here’s a little lesson on physical geography:
Greenhouse gases trap energy in the atmosphere – which is essential, or else our planet would be too cold to support life. However, the buildup of greenhouse gases – much of which is due to human activities since the early 20th century, no thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other industrial processes – leads to global warming. Besides climate change, global warming also has other dire long-term effects, including plant and animal extinctions, rising sea levels, as well as societal issues like socioeconomic inequality.
While we’re on the topic of extinctions, a 2013 study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that “up to 83 percent of birds, 66 percent of amphibians and 70 percent of corals that are identified as highly vulnerable to climate change are not on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”.
Eh … I’m not sure if you answered my question …
I totally did! According to top climate scientists, much of the emission of greenhouse gases is attributed to manmade activities – the keyword here is “manmade”. Since us humans are responsible for global warming, we can also prevent it from killing our planet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The amount of carbon dioxide – the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities – in the Earth’s atmosphere recently reached an all-time high in the past 800,000 years. The problem with carbon dioxide is that, once emitted, a single molecule of it can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. We are already experiencing the effects of climate change; can you imagine what the effects would be for the next few centuries, what with today’s rise in global warming-causing human activities?
Let me get this straight: No matter how much we try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, we wouldn’t be able to effect a change in centuries to come. In other words, we’re screwed, so why bother?
Because you wouldn’t want your children to suffer from your wrongdoings, would you? Those of us reading this now may not bear the brunt of global warming impacts in our lifetime, but the choices we make today will affect the welfare of our future generations. We are slowly and gradually killing Earth. The least we can do now is adopt some changes so as to avoid speeding up the death of our planet. (Okay, I was being a little dramatic there; it could take tens of thousands of years, but the fact remains that we can make the world a better place for our future generations to live in.)
Okay, I think I get it now. But the main culprits behind global warming are big players like power plants. What can I – a small fry in the grand scheme of things – do to save the Earth?
Simple; don’t contribute to global warming. Every little thing we do will add up to make a big difference one day. While Singapore is generally on board with the environmental movement, there are many ways we as individuals can do to help reduce global warming:
- Learn how to drive your car in a fuel-efficient way. This means, whenever you’re not driving – you’re chillaxing in your car, waiting for someone, etc. – turn off the engine. A running car engine consumes fuel, emitting carbon into the atmosphere. In the words of founder Debs, “Wait in a non-air-conditioned car can die ah?”
- In the office, if you have to print out documents, make sure your printer settings are changed to double-sided printing.
- Since you’re still in the office, please remember to SWITCH OFF YOUR COMPUTER BEFORE YOU LEAVE.
- Use a fan to keep cool when you sleep at night. It consumes about one-tenth of the electricity used by an air conditioner.
- The air conditioner consumes the highest amount of energy at home. But if you must sleep with air conditioning, set the temperate at 25°C.
- Turn off the tap when you’re applying your shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
Taking care of the planet is a lifelong responsibility everyone has to take, but it really isn’t a chore. For more tips, check out this comprehensive list from World Wide Fund for Nature (Singapore).
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.
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