Take Action, Don't Wait for a Reaction
A new report from the United Nations has shown that if greenhouse gas levels continue at the current rate, global temperatures could rise by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2040. Just a few years ago, we had never seen climate change as a problem as large-scale as this. Now, the realisation dawns on us. If we do not take action now, there will be a bitter future. Icebergs will melt, inundating coastlines, weather patterns will change, resulting in droughts and as the world population continues to boom, poverty will become a norm. Is this a future that we want for ourselves and the next generation? No one wants a damaged, hand-me-down planet, and no one deserves it.
Imagine a sustainable garden in a city. What would you see? I would observe a lush, thick foliage, abundant wildlife living amongst the hustle bustle of human activity and a car-free city. A modern metropolis, solar panels, occasional bus stops and throngs of cyclists.
Singapore, ranked second in sustainability globally, has not yet achieved its full potential. However, one can argue that it has been working hard to do so. With an ambitious goal to reduce its Emissions Intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030, the government has unlocked new ways to make the country more self-sufficient. Multiple initiatives rolled out in 2018 aimed for the nation to emit less carbon, such as quadrupling the sheltered walkway network to encourage citizens to walk and cycle more, but that's just an appetizer.
A pilot HDB (Housing Development Board) Greenprint programmetransformed 38 blocks of flats in Yuhua into Singapore's first green neighbourhood, which included new, smart and sustainable technologies that targeted concerns like energy and water conservation. Solar panels were installed onto the top of the estate flats, while a rainwater harvesting system was put into place. The success of the programme led to its extension to Teck Ghee.
Fig. 1: The solar panels will power the lifts and the corridor and staircase lightings
Image by NCCS National Climate Change Secretariat, from https://www.nccs.gov.sg/docs/default-source/publications/take-action-today-for-a-carbon-efficient-singapore.pdf
However, I believe the problem truly lies in convincing the citizens to do their part to fight climate change. Through a Google Form Survey, I asked how they thought climate change affected them from the scale of 1 to 10, and 4 of the 11 respondents I asked responded with an answer of 5 and below. What is more puzzling is that even those who knew the great impact of climate change were not driven to change their lifestyles and habits to the maximum. That got me thinking, do Singaporeans really know the full impact of climate change?
Fig 2A: 7 out of the 11 responses believed that they knew about most of the effects of climate change
Fig 2B: Only 5 out of 11 responses thought they did well in reducing the effects of climate change
To me, this calls for an immediate change. Climate change is an incoming typhoon about to hit Singapore, if we are going to avoid its wrath, we will have to step up our game, doing all that we can manage to lure it away from our path. However, Singapore is not made up of just one individual, hence, education is one of the methods that can keep everyone on the same page.
One way of education is through compulsory seminars for adults and talks to schooling children, teenagers, as well as children in kindergarten. Less invasive methods would be through letters to the citizens or emails, which they can read in their own time. Despite this, merely cramming information into the heads of Singaporeans might not do much on its own, building interest in this area of concern is just as important. Carnival games organised by Community Clubs as well as schools can not only reinforce bonds between friends and family, but environmental-themed games can also build on to the knowledge that people learn in the classroom.
However, this might not necessarily garner the attention of people of all age groups. Another way one can try to attract attention to this environmental issue is through social media, the trend for most teenagers and young adults. Environmental organisations can collaborate with famous Singaporean personalities to promote climate action. In addition, they can use hashtags as a way to gather attention to the issue, such as #tryeverythingonce, which can allow people to try using eco-friendly products or make simple changes to their lifestyle and feel the advantages of doing so, hence making it a habit. One of the best advantages to this is that it will raise awareness of climate change among the young, and it will be easier to influence them to take climate action, once they learn about the harm climate change brings, as they might not have formed an opinion about it yet.
Moreover, we all know a significant trait of Singaporeans, being Kiasu, or afraid to lose out to the crowd. Environmental groups can collaborate with government officials to start an app, similar to the Healthy 365 application released by HealthHub, which allow users to scan a Quick Response Code, or QR Code, to earn points whenever they order a healthy dish or ingredient, which can allow them to earn vouchers upon reaching a certain number of points. A new app can be coded to do just that, to reward users who visit shops which have environmentally-friendly practices, such as using a limited amount of energy per square metre, or by using fans instead of air-conditioning. Other functions can include doing environmental quizzes, reading and writing articles on climate change and climate action, as well as rewarding eco-friendly behaviours by sending a picture to the managers of the application to earn points and redeem coupons and vouchers.
Climate action is vital to reducing the harmful effects of climate change and through my survey, I have realised that education is key to paving the way to a sustainable, low-carbon emission city. The Singapore government have indeed put in a great effort to keep to their pledge to reduce the Emissions Intensity by 36% from 2005, or 0.113 kilograms per dollar, by 2030, but I believe that the battle against climate change has to be done by both citizen and government, especially those of the younger generation, who will be feeling the effects of climate change if we do not act now.