Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Uncool To Be Hot

If you think global warming is not your problem, you have probably missed out the word 'global'.

Global warming refers to the increase of average temperature of the Earth which is the single one place that all of us live in. No one is immune to the adverse effects of global warming and thus making it everyone's problem.

The global surface temperature has increased in the past 100 years and it has been increasing at a faster rate. Each time the temperate change creeps up a little, it brings about a chain effect on other geographical phenomena such as rise of sea level, Arctic shrinkage and glacier retreat. These changes in turn bring about a domino consequences such as changes in seasonal timing and agricultural patterns.

In short, it affects our lives in an inescapable way.

A recent study discovered that the thickness of Arctic sea ice has dropped by as much as 49cm. The finding has caused a concern as the reading has been constant in the past 5 years. This is but one of the many discoveries that constantly raise concerns on what is going to happen in the near future.

Maldives, which is made up a group of atolls with 1192 islets, has very good reasons to be concern. Many of us know Maldives for its blue ocean and white beaches, ideal for scuba diving, fishing and windsurfing. What some of us may not know is that, Maldives is the country with the lowest 'highest point' in the world. What this means is that, it is under the greatest threat of any consequence of rising sea water.

Out of the islets, only 200 are inhabited with most of the rest less than 1m above sea level. Studies have suggested that the country could be submerged within 100 years. Its newly elected leader recently said that his government are in talks with several countries and they will want to buy land overseas to relocate its 380,000 residents.

The effect of global warming is now being felt in a bigger and visible way. It will not stop here unless something bigger and visible is being done - by everyone.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol outlined a set of political understanding in relation to an environmental agreement. The main target under this agreement is greenhouse gas emission. 178 countries have since signed the treaty and committed to achieve its objective of "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."

Singapore joined the treaty in 2006. Before that, the squeaky clean nation received a fair amount of criticism for not being 'green' in a planetary sense.

We have progressed and more green effort has been seen in recent years.

Interestingly the the green movement here is somewhat 'Uniquely Singapore'. Unlike in the West where green crusade starts from ground up, the 'green direction' here is largely government driven. In fact, consumers in Singapore are quite pathetic in their green awareness. This is probably due the affluent and comfortable life enjoyed in the past decades. It does not help that Singapore is branded one of the cleanest city in the world, causing an illusion that we are well ahead in the green movement.

Way back in the 1960s, the Singapore government was determined to turn the then filthy city into a 'clean and green' nation and it did. The people have since been led into the movement without first embracing and appreciating what green issues are all about. Ask anyone here about green movement, he is likely to share that it is a matter best left to the government.
The Singapore's paternalistic style of green movement is not about to go away so soon. Every year, the environment agencies spend a hefty amount to keep the city clean. They initiated campaigns after campaigns just so that the 'keep our city clean' message does not get diluted over time.

Looks like the 'green papa' in Singapore is not going to stop driving the green movement on its own. In 2005, The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) launched the 'Green Mark Scheme' to move Singapore's construction industry towards more environment-friendly buildings. A suite of incentives has been thrown in to entice participation and more carrots are expected to come along.

Since then, some private sector participation could be seen even though it is not clear to me whether this is a start of ground level consciousness or a good case of coercion. So far, more than 120 projects have been awarded the BCA Green Mark and the BCA aims to achieve 10 mil sqm of Green Mark buildings/year by 2009. I am not certain if the private sector is going to help to achieve this through the route of 'We Want To' or 'We Have To'.

In the long run, green movement in Singapore can only be sustainable if all levels of buy in are attained. That would mean having you and I knowing, believing and doing what is right to keep this planet alive. We live on this planet and just in case you are not aware, there isn't another place to move to, yet.

Do your part, now!

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