It’s getting hot in here, but taking off all your clothes in public is an offence in Singapore. So, what can we do? Where can we go? Why so bloody hot?!
First of all, CHILL. While fast solutions to beating the heat are welcomed, we have to think long term – and this means looking at measures that can help slow down rising temperatures not just in Singapore but around the world.
A recent news report tells us that, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS), the rate at which Singapore temperatures have risen in the past six decades is more than double than that of the global average. A likely major contributing cause? Rapid urbanisation.
Here’s the thing. Urbanisation is a double-edged sword. Yes, it brings about opportunities for economic growth, but it also simultaneously contributes to climate change – a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that cities are responsible for up to 76 percent of the world’s energy consumption and emit around 70 percent of global carbon emissions.
A few weeks ago, I watched a TED video featuring Tshering Tobgay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan. The video is only 18 minutes long, but the very poignant messages delivered by the Prime Minister will be forever ingrained in my mind. In his speech, he talks about Gross National Happiness (GNH), Bhutan’s holistic approach to growth. Coined by the country’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the concept of GNH opposes that of Gross National Product (GDP) – rather than measure economic growth and wealth, GNH aims to improve the country’s happiness and wellbeing, focusing on development with value. Says Mr Tobgay, “Economic growth is important, but that economic growth must not come from undermining our unique culture or our pristine environment.”
Bhutan is not just carbon neutral, but a carbon sink. He says, “72 percent of our country is under forest cover, and all that forest is pristine. That’s why we are one of the few remaining global biodiversity hotspots in the world, and that’s why are are a carbon neutral country. In a world that is threatened with climate change, we are a carbon neutral country … Actually, that’s not quite accurate. Bhutan is not carbon neutral. Bhutan is carbon negative. Our entire country generates 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, but our forests, they sequester more than three times that amount, so we are a net carbon sink for more than four million tons of carbon dioxide each year.”
Mr Tobgay adds that Bhutan also exports renewable electricity, which works to offset about six million tons of carbon dioxide in their neighbourhood. “And if we were to harness even half of our hydropower potential, and that’s exactly what we are working at, the clean, green energy that we export would offset something like 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. That is more CO2 than what the entire city of New York generates in one year.”
Yet, despite the country’s unwavering efforts, Bhutan is suffering from the consequences of climate change. While they are actively trying to salvage the problems caused by the rest of the world, melting glaciers are causing disasters like flash floods and landslides, wreaking havoc on the lives of people in Bhutan. And yet, Mr Tobgay says, “After all, we’re here to dream together, to work together, to fight climate change together, to protect our planet together. Because the reality is we are in it together.”
So, back to the question of how to beat the heat in Singapore. If you’re after quick fixes, sorry, you won’t see them here. In fact, a couple of the tips below may seem counterproductive. But in the long run, all of them can help reduce the effects of global warming.
Set your A/C temperature at 25°C or higher
Organisations, I hope you’re reading this too. Many of the shopping malls, cinemas, and offices in Singapore are way too cold. The air conditioner consumes huge amounts of energy, which contribute to climate change, so set the temperature at 25°C or higher to considerably save the amount of energy used. At home, as much as possible, use a fan to keep cool as it consumes only one-tenth the electricity used by an air conditioner.
Turn off your car engine when you’re not driving
Yes, even when you’re in the car. A running car engine consumes fuel, which emits carbon into the atmosphere. Waiting for someone? Wind down your car window then!
Stop buying non-sustainable palm oil products
Scorching heat and the haze make the worst combination, no? The slash-and-burn method of producing palm oil in Indonesia has been majorly contributing to climate change and the loss of biodiversity. The situation isn’t improving because the demand for palm oil products is still too darn high. One non-profit volunteer movement in Singapore aims to inspire children to make a difference. Beyond The Haze, founded by a group of parents, is dedicated to raising awareness about the root causes and broader effects of rainforest destruction in Southeast Asia. By educating the young, Beyond The Haze hopes children will educate themselves and their parents in environmentally friendly practices – from responsible food choices to recycling of paper and other materials. To find out more about their initiative, click here.
For more tips on how you can fight climate change, click here.
05 Dec 2016