Sea levels, global warming, climate change: topics of the past, present, future


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Featured image by freestockcenter on Freepik

Climate change is something we hear about very often nowadays, whether it is on social media, or in everyday conversations with the people around us… but how much do people know about climate change, and care about its effects? I wanted to find out more about how the rise in sea levels affects both life on land and in water, be it loss of habitat or disruption to migration patterns etc. However, firstly, we need to understand what causes sea levels to rise.

A rise in sea levels is generally caused by the melting of glaciers and ice sheets due to increased global temperature. This increases the volume of seawater, which also expands due to the temperature of the water increasing. Singapore is especially vulnerable to this phenomenon due to our geography as a low-lying island with 30% of our land no more than 5 metres above sea level.[1] 

Currently, some plans by the Singaporean government and government-related agencies include the Coastal Inland Flood Model by PUB and the formation of the Coastal Adaptation Study by the Building & Construction Authority to find out more about how rising sea levels can affect and change industrial, residential as well as communal areas of Singapore. Some areas such as the East Coast and Jurong Island are considered vulnerable to sea level rise.[2]

Photo put up by PM Lee Hsien Long in 2019, highlighting the coastline and vulnerable locations [3]

In 2020, a study conducted by Nanyang Technological University (NTU)[4] in collaboration with a team of scientists from universities across the world examined cities such as Singapore, with populations of at least 5 million, and their proximity to the coast of the country. The study discussed the speed at which cities such as Singapore were sinking, further exacerbating the issue of rising sea levels.

Interviews and Data collection

Interested in my friends and families’ views on climate change, I created a Google form[5] to gather information on the opinions of people around me. When asked about how knowledgeable the respondents felt they were about rising sea levels, a resounding 80% of respondents picked 5 and above on a scale of 1 to 10, indicating a high level of awareness of the problem.

Nevertheless, despite the high level of awareness, results of the survey showed that this did not translate into action. The results of the question “How much do you think you have done to reduce sea level rise” showed that majority of respondents picked the midpoint of 5 and the least knowledgeable at 1. This is followed by a fifth of respondents picking 3, and some picking 6, 7 and 2. 

This is interesting data as it highlights the lack of action from people and that spreading awareness is perhaps not enough. In the same survey, respondents were asked “If you were dying in 10 years, would you still make an effort to combat climate change?” Majority said yes to trying, however 2 respondents decided they would not make an effort.

When asked for reasons behind their choice, respondents who indicated they would not make an effort to combat climate change should they die in 10 years stated that the effects of global warming, climate change and rise in sea level would not affect them and hence “wasn’t their problem”, and “took too much effort”, which was a disheartening revelation. On the bright side, people wishing to make a change made this decision with the reasoning that “future generations should not have to clear up our own mess.” 

In my interviews with family members and friends, all interviewees stated similar solutions to the problem of climate change such as reducing air condition usage, or taking more public transport, however very few of them were acting on it, with one respondent stating he felt that he would not feel the effects of global warming and hence did not care. This must change if we are to weather the storm of climate change and pave the way for a brighter future for the generations to come. If we act as one now, we can still reduce the effects of global warming and sea level rise to allow younger generations to enjoy the earth that we live on, take in, and appreciate every single day.

Solutions

Currently, existing solutions are grouped into Strengthening coastal defences and Reducing carbon emissions.[6]

Strengthening coastal defences

This strategy includes building new infrastructures, such as Changi Airport T5, 5m above sea level, as announced at the 2019 National Day Rally. However, due to the low-lying nature of many Singapore areas, other solutions include sea walls and earthen bunds, a sloped embankment or bund constructed from earth designed to withhold water and prevent flooding. These projects can cause a lot of money and though effective, maintaining these structures would require many resources.

Seawall in Netherlands, a possible solution to rising sea levels[7]

Local institutions are collaborating on researching natural coastal protection measures such as the use of mangroves and sea grasses as natural barriers to inundation, while offering protection against climate change.

Reducing carbon emissions

The Singaporean government aims to halve 2030 peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and achieve net zero emissions in the second half of the century, with scientists believing that a rise of between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius will be the tipping point at which the Antarctic ice sheet will slip into rapid collapse, with catastrophic consequences for cities around the world. Carbon emissions play a huge role in the melting of ice caps which then affects the speed of which glaciers melt. 

Individually, one can use less appliances such as the air-conditioner and take more public transport. This is an achievable goal for everyone and can drastically reduce carbon emissions, bringing us closer to reducing the effects of climate change.


[1] NCSS: https://www.nccs.gov.sg/faqs/impact-of-climate-change-and-adaptation-measures/#:~:text=As%20a%20low%2Dlying%20island%20in%20the%20tropics%2C%20with%2030,change%20is%20an%20immediate%20threat.

[2] NCSS: https://www.nccs.gov.sg/singapores-climate-action/coastal-protection/

[3] PM Lee Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leehsienloong/photos/a.344710778924968/2631685116894178/?type=3

[4] Mothership: https://mothership.sg/2022/09/land-sinking-sea-rising-ntu-study/

[5] Google Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1w3wEcfyQD2LUo9X_eI6Wb5BFPVV0T32Hu8dp-9E5gzo/edit?pli=1

[6] Yahoo News:

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/how-will-singapores-coasts-change-amid-rising-sea-levels-045355692.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAEyO9vJ89XxKxWLEx74m8AabXBdQT4AoKDZR7YEcDuLTc7PKRe486Bfu115U0h23onl26mXRxlnzXKfT_JU91XcaPKEp9GPsoMFRoejfI3pNH9UfT_1aFOcL2fNUTCKVaWpef3jFDB6je8HGa2TgxOFbWcdDfuGtbf3ByTj8sg-9

[7] Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-Maeslant-storm-surge-barrier-near-Rotterdam-during-a-test-closure-source_fig1_234289232

Original source: www.BeeldbankVenW.nl

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