Singapore invests $23.5 million more to study climate change

Clouds fill the sky at Marina Bay in Singapore December 20, 2019. (PHOTO: REUTERS)
Clouds fill the sky at Marina Bay in Singapore December 20, 2019. (PHOTO: REUTERS)

SINGAPORE — A new programme costing $23.5 million to study the long-term impact of climate change on Singapore was announced by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu on Tuesday (12 July).

The Climate Impact Science Research (CISR) Programme under the the National Environment Agency's (NEA) Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) will focus on five areas: sea level rise, water resource and flood management, biodiversity and food security, human health and energy, and bridging science-policy translation.

The programme will be funded under Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan.

"Climate impacts will manifest differently in each region, and their magnitudes will differ based on each region’s circumstances and capabilities in adapting to them," said Fu in her opening remarks at the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Sea Level Conference held in Singapore.

"We must study climate impacts comprehensively to ensure that countries are adequately prepared to cope," she said.

In her speech, Fu noted that Singapore is experiencing more episodes of higher rainfall and temperatures, and that the low-lying island state faces an existential threat from sea level rise. The region is also highly vulnerable to climate change.

"Yet climate scientists have found the climate of this region – especially its precipitation – particularly challenging to model," she said.

"By downscaling global climate projections and producing localised, high resolution models of wind, rainfall, and temperature, we can better assess the impacts of climate change on local crop and aquaculture yields. We could also evaluate the indirect impact of higher temperatures through the increased prevalence of pests and diseases," Fu said.

"This would in turn allow us to strengthen our food resilience, be it through the development of climate-resilient crop varieties or choosing sea spaces with more suitable habitat conditions for aquaculture," she added.

In a press release, NEA elaborated on the five areas of study under the CISR:

  • Assessments of sea level rise will help evaluate the risks of coastal floods and inform the adequacy of protection measures.

  • On water resource and flood management, studies on the impact of water runoff from increased precipitation, for example, can help in planning Singapore's flood mitigation measures, such as local detention tanks and rightsizing the drainage network.

  • Biodiversity and food security will also be impacted by more extreme weather events, affecting crop yields and supply chains. Studies in this area can help with Singapore's food diversification strategy.

  • On human health and energy, future warming may exacerbate the urban heat island effect, causing energy demand surges, which will impact supply and grid transmission, while a rise in the threat of vector-borne diseases will also impact health. Studies in this area will help enhance public sector planning and decision-making under future warming scenarios.

  • Science-policy translation is needed to allow agencies to make sense of projected climate change risks, in order to plan effective interventions.

"Climate change is a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary problem, with far-reaching implications on Singapore, the region, and the world. By adopting a multi-pronged research approach and addressing different facets of climate change, Singapore can better understand our imminent challenges and formulate effective adaptation measures," said NEA in its statement.

Professor Dale Barker, who is CCRS director, said, "We hope that research outcomes from the CISR Programme will help to provide a more accurate understanding of climate impact science to provide a firm foundation for downstream policy and infrastructure implementation. For example, allowing policymakers to make more informed decisions on optimising adaptation infrastructure costs.”

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