Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jan 18



3 Feb (Sat): Talk by Ben Brown, pioneer of Ecological Mangrove Restoration in Asia
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with Cicada Tree Eco-Place on 4 Feb 2018
Love our MacRitchie Forest

11 Feb (Sun) - Free guided walk at Pasir Ris Mangroves
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Chestnut-winged & crimson-hued stars
Winging It

Orinoco Peacock Bass (Cichla orinocensis) @ Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon)
Monday Morgue


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New business district in Punggol to chart Govt's focus on digital economy, will create 28,000 jobs

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: The opening of a new business and education hub in Punggol from 2023 will create 28,000 jobs in fields such as cybersecurity and data analytics, creating job opportunities “close to home”.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said this at the launch of an exhibition for members of the public to view the Punggol Digital District’s masterplan on Sunday (Jan 21). He said the District will support government efforts to build a Smart Nation, where technologies can be deployed to prepare workers for the digital economy.

The Punggol Digital District, which will incorporate a business park, the Singapore Institute of Technology’s new campus as well as community facilities, will foster innovation and collaboration, said planners who shared more details on the District.

The 50-hectare development was first announced as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Draft Master Plan in 2013, while more details were shared by Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong last year.

JTC’s Assistant CEO David Tan said the district’s planning marks the first time all agencies involved came together at the start to develop an integrated plan.

“All the facilities and infrastructure were planned from the start, and that also optimises the use of land, energy, water and other resources,” Mr Tan said.

“This means we can also make living and working there more sustainable.”

FIRST ENTERPRISE DISTRICT WILL PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY FOR LAND USE

The area, currently a vacant plot of land north of Punggol and west of Coney Island, will also be the first in Singapore developed as an "enterprise" district. JTC, the district’s master developer, said this will allow planners flexibility in land use mix.

“So for example, SIT's land is zoned for education, whereas JTC's business park is zoned as a business park. (But) because of this so-called 'enterprise' district, we can actually mix the uses together,” Mr Tan said.

“So some of the education space can be within JTC's facilities, and some of JTC's business park can be part of SIT's land. So for example, SIT's research labs and learning facilities can be located within JTC's buildings, and similarly, JTC's labs, startup spaces can be located there.”

He said the exchange of spaces will allow companies to collaborate with the university, and foster open innovation and the sharing of ideas.

Speaking at the launch of the masterplan, DPM Teo said that the relocation of the national Cyber Security Agency to the Punggol Digital District is being studied.

"This will help seed a new cluster of cybersecurity and technology firms in Punggol. Our residents can look forward to many exciting jobs close to home and gain new skills in these growth areas,” Mr Teo said.

JTC BUSINESS PARK TO HOUSE KEY SECTORS OF DIGITAL INDUSTRY

Mr Tan said construction of the business park buildings will begin this year, and once ready from 2023 onwards, they will be home to companies in sectors that Singapore has identified as growth areas, including cybersecurity and Internet of Things.

Assistant Chief Executive of the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) Angeline Poh said the companies that set up shop in the business park could be those that are not just technology-driven, but those that have technology elements at the heart of its service.

The park will not just house multinational companies (MNCs) from these growth sectors, but also small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, allowing for opportunities for collaboration among them.

SIT’S PRESENCE A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR COLLABORATION BETWEEN INDUSTRY AND ACADEMIA

DPM Teo said the digital district will provide more learning opportunities with the new centralised campus for the Singapore Institute of Technology. SIT will support skills upgrading and continuing education with its suite of applied courses.

"There will be many opportunities for students and teaching staff from SIT and industry practitioners in the Digital District to interact and exchange ideas, and use the Digital District and Punggol as a test-bed for new technologies,” he said.

"For instance, incorporating video analytics and facial recognition to enhance security, and developing smart energy management systems for buildings and homes to conserve energy. With closer collaboration between academia and industry, we can develop many new products and services for the Digital Economy.”

SIT President Prof Tan Thiam Soon said the university can be a living lab for companies.

As an example, Prof Tan said SIT signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with grid operator SP Group in October last year to build a micro-grid at the Punggol campus.

It will operate independently from the national grid, but excess energy can also be pushed into the main grid to support the district “in times of need”, Prof Tan said. In turn, it also allows SP Group to test the micro-grid in a “real operating environment”.

“(In the same way), I think the whole idea is we open up, and it doesn't even need to be all local companies,” Prof Tan said.

“I think some of the companies from overseas, if they need a place to test, we will be saying, come and test. Use our students, use our professors, we will be the place for you to test this new technology.”

CUTTING-EDGE INFRASTRUCTURE, NEW AMENITIES WITHIN THE DISTRICT

Planning agencies said a key feature of the district will be the incorporation of artificial intelligence and Internet-of-Things in the facilities within the district. For example, they said all the systems within the district will be centrally and remotely monitored, analysed and controlled at its integrated facilities management location.

It will also have an automated waste collection centre, a district cooling system that supplies chilled water to the various buildings for their air-conditioning, as well as a large underground car-park.

Another interesting feature being explored is a centralised logistics hub. Mr Tan said this will be the first stop for all goods delivered to the district.

“From here, they will be taken to the various tenants’ properties either by automated guided vehicles or drones,” he said.

The District will have amenities such as a hawker centre, childcare centres and a community club. It will be connected to residential estates in the area.

"The Digital District will also fit in well with the natural environment that our residents love. Our residents can enjoy the green surroundings, and a new park, Campus Heart. A new pedestrian street along the Campus Boulevard will link various parts of the Digital District to the waterfront area,” DPM Teo said.

The existing Punggol Road will be retained and transformed into a 1.3km heritage trail that will connect Punggol District with Punggol Waterway and an upcoming residential district at Punggol Point.

(Additional reporting by Rachel Phua.)

Source: CNA/rw


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Singapore banks big funders of region's coal projects: Study

Green groups voice concern, as global banks shun pollution source
David Fogarty Straits Times 21 Jan 18;

Singapore's three top banks DBS, OCBC and UOB are significant funders of coal projects in the region, an analysis of their investments shows, putting them at odds with a growing number of global banks shunning financing of polluting coal-fired power stations and mines.

Coal is a major source of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for heating up the planet.

All three banks have adopted sustainable financing guidelines and told The Sunday Times they carefully consider each investment with regard to environmental impact versus the need to bring electricity to millions of people.

Yet Market Forces, the Australian financial green group that conducted the study, says coal lending is at odds with the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the rapid growth of affordable renewable energy.

Market Forces says DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank have financed 21 coal project deals since 2012 worth US$2.29 billion, over half of which were for coal-fired power stations, mainly in Indonesia and Vietnam.

Market Forces analysed data from IJGlobal, a leading online energy and infrastructure finance data service, relating to the deals.

OCBC was the top lender, participating in coal deals worth US$1.14 billion since 2012. This included US$195 million for the 2,000MW Tanjung Jati B coal-fired power plant in Indonesia last year.

What the banks say
In response to questions from The Straits Times, a DBS spokesman said: "According to the International Energy Agency, while South-east Asia is taking steps towards adopting low-carbon energy, by 2040, coal will still account for 40 per cent of the generation mix.

"Many of our neighbouring developing countries are dependent on coal as part of their energy mix to deliver economic growth, and the financial system has a responsibility to ensure that the transition to renewables happens in a sustainable manner."

OCBC Bank chief risk officer Vincent Choo said: "The financing of energy sector projects, where environmental impact is mitigated in compliance with national and local laws and regulation, enables local communities to gain access to electricity and opens up employment opportunities.

"We believe that sustainability is a journey. We continue to strengthen our responsible financing practices over time and seek to positively influence our customers' behaviours by engaging them in adopting appropriate sustainable practices."

A UOB spokesman said the bank was committed to supporting sustainable development and mitigating environmental, social and governance risks in its lending.

The spokesman said it was bank policy to conduct enhanced due diligence for companies in potentially high-impact industries, including the energy sector, for which the bank advocates using appropriate technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, to mitigate potential environmental impacts.

"Across our network, we also finance and support renewable energy projects, in areas such as solar power and hydropower, that comply with local environmental requirements," the spokesman added.

DBS was involved in deals worth US$885 million, five of which also involved OCBC. This included a US$160 million loan to a consortium to buy Australia's Port of Newcastle, a major coal shipment hub, and a US$140 million loan to partially fund building of a 1,900MW power plant in Central Java.

UOB participated in deals worth US$262 million. Its largest loan totalled US$92 million for the 2014 refinancing of the Newcastle Coal export terminal expansion.

DBS has also been named as part of a loan syndicate funding the construction of four 1,200MW coal-fired power plants in Vietnam, the report says, and is a financial adviser for a number of large power plants planned for Indonesia.

Singapore has declared 2018 the year of climate action and was an important player in the reaching of a deal for the 2015 Paris climate agreement, in which nearly 200 nations agreed to limit global warming to less than 2 deg C.

To achieve this, nations need to rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions by shifting to cleaner sources of energy for industry, power generation and transport.

Green groups, including Greenpeace, say major investment plans in South-east Asia to build dozens of coal-fired power stations could send global carbon dioxide emissions soaring, risking the Paris "below 2 deg C" goal and increasing local air pollution.

Says the Market Forces report: "Banks justify coal investments by rightly pointing out that communities need energy.

"However, with a rapidly improving economic outlook for wind and solar, including renewable energy already being cheaper than coal in many countries, investments in coal power serve little more than the companies seeking to build their old, dirty technology."

Other banks have cut back on coal investments. HSBC last year announced that it would no longer finance coal mines or new coal power plants in rich nations. Australia's four big banks have also sharply curbed lending to coal projects since 2015.


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'Picky' waste collector incident raises questions about whether Singapore's push to promote recycling is working

Audrey Tan Straits Times 21 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - When Punggol resident Eloise Huang sent her husband to the blue recycling bin at the foot of her block with a big bag of recyclables, she had assumed that all of it - paper, plastic, glass and metal - would escape the landfill.

Yet, according to a recent Facebook post by Ms Huang, the collector who came to pick it up removed all paper and cardboard from the bag before dumping the rest of the contents into the green bins meant for trash.

"Save your plastics, metals elsewhere for recycling, since they will end up in the normal bin," she wrote.

SembWaste, which collects recyclables in the area, and the National Environment Agency said they are looking into the case.

"At no point would we condone staff wilfully discarding materials meant to be recycled," said SembWaste.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said its officers conduct random site inspections of collection from the blue bins and sorting activities at materials recovery facilities.

"In this case, if the allegation is substantiated after our investigations, a financial penalty will be imposed on the public waste collector and demerit points awarded... which is taken into consideration during evaluation of future public waste collection tenders," said an NEA spokesman.

The incident of the picky collector is not the only case of recycling efforts mishandled by public waste collectors, and has raised questions from environmental groups about the effectiveness of recent programmes meant to encourage recycling.

In 2015, waste company Veolia was found to have mixed items to be recycled with rubbish for incineration during collection, even though NEA requires recyclables and waste to be collected separately and in separate trucks.

Recyclables from households and premises such as schools, army camps, petrol kiosks, places of worship and shophouses are collected by public waste collectors under the National Recycling Programme, as well as the informal recycling sector, such as rag-and-bone men.

In 2016, only 21 per cent of waste produced by households was recycled. The hope is to bump this up to 30 per cent by 2030.

Singapore's domestic recycling sector has remained lacklustre, despite national efforts to encourage people to recycle more.

For example, every HDB block has been provided with a blue recycling bin since 2014 - up from one bin for every five blocks. The Government also announced in 2014 that all new public housing projects will be fitted with recycling chutes with throw points on each floor.

But it is not clear if these efforts have borne fruit.

Asked to give the tonnage of recyclables collected under the National Recycling Programme in 2016, NEA would say only that it "does not have a breakdown of the quantity of recyclables". Instead, it uses surveys to track the proportion of residents who recycle and how they do so.

For example, in a 2015/2016 survey involving face-to-face interviews with 5,700 residents, the proportion of residents who recycle was more than 70 per cent, up from 15 per cent in 2001, said NEA. "Out of those who recycle, more than 80 per cent indicated that they made use of the blue bins to recycle," its spokesman said.

Ms Pamela Low, from the environmental group Singapore Youth for Climate Action, noted that both Taiwan and Hong Kong measure their recycling rate by tracking the tonnage of recyclables collected.

"We should measure our recycling rate using international standards of measurement," said Ms Low. "Also, if NEA surveys show that we have a 70 per cent recycling participation rate... why then are we only targeting a 30 per cent household recycling rate by 2030? We can be more ambitious in our target household recycling rate."


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Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jan 18



Wild ideas for mangrove restoration at Pulau Ubin
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

Aberrations in Butterflies
Butterflies of Singapore


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Decaying Angsana tree beside SOTA cut down

Gaya Chandramohan Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: The prominent Angsana tree that stood sentinel at the junction of Bras Basah Road and Prinsep Street for around 40 years was cut down on Sunday (Jan 21).

Known affectionately as the Tree of Knowledge to The School of the Arts (SOTA) - whose grounds the tree occupied - it was recently found to have a cavity at its base and significant decay that had worsened over the years.

SOTA vice-principal Pauline Ann Tan, who was on site to oversee the removal of the tree, said she was sad to see the iconic tree go but agreed it was a matter of safety.

"It came to a point where every heavy downpour worried us, in case the tree fell in strong winds. Even yesterday's downpour had us worried," she said.

Henry Tan who attends church in the vicinity was taking videos of workers cutting down the tree when Channel NewsAsia approached him.

"I pass by this tree every week after church. It's sad that it has to be removed because it provided shade for those waiting at the traffic light," the 53-year-old accountant said.

Housewife Melanie Woo who frequently jogs in the vicinity was also sad to see the towering Angsana tree go.

"It's a very majestic tree, but that also means if it falls, it could be a disaster because the area sees a lot of foot traffic," she said.

But new beginnings will soon take root when sapling is planted in place of the SOTA Tree.

"We're in talks with NEA to select a suitable tree to be planted to replace the tree," said Tan.


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Digging up the past: Searching for treasures to unlock more of Singapore's history

With many potential archaeological sites in Singapore that have not been investigated yet, the hope is that undiscovered artefacts can reveal even more about the country's rich heritage.
Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 21 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: While Pulau Ubin is best known for its rustic charm, bike trails and seafood restaurants, archaeologists think it may have hidden historical secrets.

A casual walk around the island provides some clues to its history, with storied shrines and temples, abandoned historical sites dating back to the 1800s, as well as two World War II gun emplacements nestled in a corner of the National Police Cadet Corps campsite.

Little is known about these emplacements, apart from the fact that they are estimated to have been constructed between 1936 and 1939. But wind back the clock to World War II, and they would have been playing a key part in Singapore's defences as Japan turned its attention to Southeast Asia.

Today, time has taken its toll on the battery, which betrays little of its colourful past. Not much remains apart from the basic concrete infrastructure, some of which has been transformed into a rock climbing wall.

However, attempts are now underway to assess whether there are more historical artefacts to be discovered, with the first in-depth archaeological surveys on the island.

HALF A MILLION ARTEFACTS UNEARTHED FROM DIGS

A key focus for National Parks Board (NParks) and ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS) is to try to unlock more information about Ubin's - and Singapore's - past, beginning with the battery.

The first phase of the surveys, which involved fieldwork and basic sampling of the site, recently wrapped up earlier this month.

Depending on what is found, more surveys might be conducted in the western part of the island.

"It's virgin territory for us, because the western side remains largely unexplored till today," said Lim Chen Sian, ISEAS associate fellow and archaeologist, who is involved in the survey.

Depending on what’s found in Ubin’s first phase of surveys, more might be conducted in the western part of the island, which has been labeled as “virgin territory”.

And the same could be said about the rest of Singapore.

So far, all of the sites that have been excavated for hidden clues into Singapore's past are clustered in the downtown area, where the British colonial settlement existed, starting with the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819.

But the Republic's rich history stretches much further back, with more secrets to be uncovered. Archaeologists believe there may be several possible excavation sites dotting the coast of Singapore, where the hypothetical ancient coastline existed.

"When Raffles was poking around looking for a place to start a new port, he settled on Singapore without ever being here," said Dr John Miksic, professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

"Because he read in the Malay Annals that said Singapore was the first great Malay trading port, which used to be called Temasek before they changed the name to Singapura.

"That’s why he came here and immediately found a number of archaeological remains which confirmed his suspicions that Singapore was old … So there probably are 4,000-year-old objects still (to be) unearthed in Singapore," said Dr Miksic.

Excavations conducted over the last three decades have revealed a treasure trove of artefacts, with over half a million objects recovered from the 14th to 17th centuries, such as ceramic pieces, ancient coins and beads.

Bit by bit, archaeologists have been able to piece together Singapore's rich heritage with the help of these long-forgotten objects, to show a fuller picture of pre-colonial - and even prehistoric - Singapore.

For example, archaeological evidence points towards the existence of prehistoric people who lived along the coasts of Singapore and its surrounding islands during the Stone Age.

At the dawn of the 14th century, a rapid expansion of urban settlements around the Singapore River indicated an economic boom due to international trade.

However, after Melaka was established, Singapore's prominence as a thriving port began to shrank from the 15th century onwards. And the island remained relatively uninhabited for two centuries until a new population began growing around 1811 - which was what Raffles encountered when he stopped onto Singapore's shores eight years later.

"LARGEST RESCUE EXCAVATION"

Singapore's largest ever excavation took place around the Empress Place area three years ago, yielding more than three tonnes of artefacts over a 100-day period.

Leading the dig was Mr Lim, along with a troupe of volunteers.

"It was a major marathon excavation, and we worked non-stop for 12 to 14 hours a day, rain or shine," the archaeologist recalled.

"We were working on an extremely tight schedule, because we were sharing the site with the developer," Mr Lim said, referring to the deadline to develop the area into an integrated arts, culture and lifestyle precinct.

"We were just literally inches just digging from them … it’s amazing how we managed to work side by side."

But he also stressed that archaeology is not against development.

"Most of our work in Singapore is to remove objects - or to preserve things on record. So based on that there's no reason to oppose development. Development goes hand in hand with archaeology because it gives us opportunity to investigate the site."

Objects unearthed during the Empress Place excavation included pottery shards, bronze coins and Buddhist figurines, some of which stretch as far back as 700 years, providing further testimony to Singapore's deep historical roots.

Still, it’s not just about finding archaeological gold in the ground. The behind-the-scenes post-excavation process forms a huge part of the work - from data collection, to cleaning and cataloguing the artefacts.

It's a time-consuming and delicate process, described Michael Ng, research officer at Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre's Archaeology Unit at ISEAS, as he held up a porcelain shard.

"The first thing is to wash and clean them - and even to clean and to wash there will be certain things where the glaze will be fragile. (They're) susceptible to damage so we have to be very careful with them."

"(After washing, they) will start to reveal a lot of details previously covered with soil. And subsequently we will sort these artefacts based on various categories, based on the materials used to make it. So for example ceramics, there's also subcategories like porcelain, stoneware, earthenware," said Mr Ng.

"After this step we’ll go into labelling, because what we're trying to do is to create a database where we can retrieve information so researchers can have access to it."

Currently, the majority of local artefacts are stored at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre's Archaeology Unit at ISEAS, as well as the Archaeology Laboratory for the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, where hundreds boxes of artefacts from various digs conducted over the years have yet to be processed.

The Archaeology Laboratory alone currently houses half a million local artefacts from digs as far back as the 1980s, along with a few thousand artefacts excavated from other sites in the region.

The two-storey facility keeps shelves stacked with boxes containing all sorts of artefacts, some neatly packaged and labeled with precise facts and details, others with just a brief description of where they were found.

"There’s this connection between human beings and past objects. And it’s hard to explain but it's obvious there’s a strong relationship – that’s why people collect various kinds of antiquities," Dr Miksic said.

"For many people just touching a 14th century object already puts them in direct contact with people who made it, who used it and who were their ancestors who lived here 700 years ago. And they feel touched by that."

ARCHAEOLOGY TO FEATURE IN FIRST NATIONAL HERITAGE PLAN

For this reason, Singapore's first national heritage plan is placing a spotlight on archaeology. So far, more than 700 people have been consulted on the upcoming masterplan, with feedback highlighted in a travelling exhibition launched on Jan 9, and the masterplan to be officially launched this April.

"We’ve been holding focus group discussions with different archaeology experts, researchers (and) volunteers who have experience in volunteering in past archaeology research and excavations, and they’ve given us a lot of feedback," said Yeo Kirk Siang, Director of the Heritage Research and Assessment Division at the National Heritage Board.

This includes doing more in the areas of research and promotion of archaeology, attracting more Singaporeans to join the field, and "a more robust and systemic way of looking at where the archaeology sites are in Singapore", Mr Yeo said.

Archaeologists say they welcome the spotlight on the field.

Stressing its significance was Mr Lim, who said that archaeology is a crucial part of unlocking Singapore's history.

"History is usually linked to printed records - but what about unwritten stuff? We have very little historical record because manuscripts in tropical climates tend to deteriorate, like those written on palm leaves. So studying the past through objects and how things change is a huge part of it," said Mr Lim.

"Archaeology plays a very important role in not just telling you about beautiful objects. Of course it’s nice to look at beautiful stuff – it’s like finding treasure. But I believe (that) archaeology can tell us a lot about ourselves.

"I may not be related to anyone from Temasek 700 years ago, but I’m connected to the people from Temasek because I stand on the same ground. I have a history, link, connection with them. And archaeology can speak to all of us in terms of a sense of belonging and identity."


Source: CNA/ad


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13km network of cycling paths open in Bedok

Gwyneth Teo Channel NewsAsia 20 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: Cycling around Bedok is now safer and more convenient with the completion of a 13km network of dedicated cycling paths.

The paths, painted in red, connect cyclists or riders of personal mobility devices between their homes and major transport nodes in the town. The marked paths also help pedestrians keep a better look out for bicycles coming their way.

Bedok is the second town after Ang Mo Kio to feature red cycling paths, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in a media release on Saturday (Jan 20).

There are also new bicycle crossings on the roads as well as more wheeling ramps at staircases.

LTA said it will expand Bedok’s cycling network to connect to the upcoming Siglap and Bayshore MRT stations on the Thomson-East Cost Line when they are operational after 2020.

As part of the Government’s plan to make housing estates more cycling-friendly, every HDB town will have its own cycling network by 2030.

Source: CNA/gs


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Commentary: Days of cool weather do not negate climate change’s destructive impact

With the cool weather that swept through Singapore, some residents wondered if there is a positive side to climate change. Such thinking is worrying, says an expert from the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
Benjamin P Horton Channel NewsAsia 20 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: A few areas around the world this past few weeks experienced cold weather.

On Sunday (Jan 14), Singapore experienced its coolest weather since 2016. Admiralty and Jurong West recorded a temperature of 21.2 degrees Celsius.

A week before, across the Pacific, parts of the United States and Canada experienced some of the most brutally cold winters, with temperatures falling below -29 degrees Celsius, and wind chill making it feel more like -67 degrees Celsius.

Worryingly, one emerging view was that cold winter spells suggest climate change doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem.

Even worse, were often heard comments in Singapore by people who believed climate change could be a positive development in tropical countries if it caused a bit of a chill.

These views must be corrected because they’re not true. Such misinformation also obscures the work of climate change scientists to discuss what can be done about global warming.

WEATHER VERSUS CLIMATE

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather refers to the conditions of the atmosphere over a short period of time, whereas climate refers to how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time.

Put simply, weather is what is happening outside your door right now. For example, today, a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades.

When scientists talk about climate, they look at averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind velocity, as well as phenomena such as fog, frost, hail storms and other measures of the weather that occur over a long period of time in a particular place.

Winter and the monsoon still bring with them cold weather, but a few cool days in Singapore or the harsh winters in North America do not negate the fact that our planet is getting warmer over the long term.

KINDS OF WEATHER WE SHOULD EXPECT

In fact, world-renowned climate scientist Dr Michael Mann pointed out last week that extreme, harsh winters are precisely the kinds of weather conditions we should expect with climate change.

Other scientists suggest such events are becoming increasingly rare, with wintertime temperatures actually increasing in the United States.

What we are more certain about is that with climate change, warmer temperatures over oceans bring more precipitation to tropical countries like Singapore and greater snowfall in temperate countries like the US.

The cool weather and thunderstorms that Singapore experienced has been attributed to a monsoon surge in the South China Sea and the surrounding region.

Singapore experiences between two and four of them each year, mostly between December and March, but no doubt this year’s was intense as rainfall levels reached record highs, causing flooding in eastern parts of the island.

In North America, winter weather patterns are a complex interplay between the upper atmosphere conditions over polar regions and mid-latitude conditions over the oceans and on land.

While cold waves still occur somewhere in North America almost every winter, and this year’s particularly harsh, recent research has shown that cold outbreaks in North America are getting less frequent over the long term due to global warming.

OUR EARTH IS WARMING

It’s more important to focus on the irrefutable fact that our Earth is warming. Earth's average temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius over the past century, and is projected to rise another 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius over the next hundred years.

The year 2016, with a mean annual temperature of 28.4 degrees Celsius, was Singapore’s warmest year on record since 1929.

Last year was the third hottest on record in the United States, only 2012 and 2016 were warmer than 2017.

In fact, the five hottest years on record in the country have been in the last decade, based on 123 years of record-keeping.

The bottom line is while there has been a smattering of days of all-time low temperatures, these pale in comparison to the all-time high temperatures seen in recent years.

CLEAR EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

The evidence showing the effects of climate change is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods and droughts, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves.

The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes – oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising.

As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and environment.

For this and many other reasons, it is important to study climate change. Climate change affects people and nature in countless ways, and exacerbates existing threats that already put pressure on the environment.

One major concern is human migration because of the impact of climate change on water and security. News reports in December suggest hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of people will be exposed to rising sea levels and shifts in extreme weather that will cause mass migrations away from the most vulnerable locations.

Climate change will also have major and unpredictable effects on the world's water systems, including an increase in floods and droughts, possibly causing displacement and conflict.

image: data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw==


Food insecurity in South Sudan has increased 500% since 2012, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. (Photo: AFP/Albert Gonzalez Farran)

Scientists predict about two-thirds of the Himalyan glaciers will be lost by the end of this century if no efforts are made to prevent climate change. More than 700 million people in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan get their water from rivers that come from these glaciers.

Climate change will also have a significant impact on food availability, accessibility, utilisation and the stability of food systems in many parts of the world. Studies have shown climate change poses a significant risk to local food security, increasing crop failure and the loss of livestock.

If anything, the cooler weather lends greater urgency to climate change initiatives like those under the Paris Agreement. Science may be able to inform policy by forecasting how severe climate change will be.

But until we can shift our economy to greener energy sources and reduce our carbon footprint, global warming will persist, regardless of how cold it feels outside.

Professor Benjamin P Horton is principal investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University.

Source: CNA/sl


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49% of Japan's largest coral reef has bleached: Environment Ministry

Mainichi Japan 20 Jan 18;

Some 49.9 percent of Sekisei coral reef -- Japan's largest -- had bleached by the end of 2017, the Environment Ministry has revealed.

The figure is substantially less than the bleaching ratio of 91.4 percent on the reef between Okinawa Prefecture's Ishigaki and Iriomote islands at the end of 2016. However, "the water temperature remains high and the bleaching ratio is still high. We can't be optimistic," said an Environment Ministry official. "Coral in the area hasn't shown signs of real recovery, and remains in critical condition."

Bleaching occurs when water temperatures rise above a certain level, causing coral polyps to expel zooxanthellae, a kind of algae that lives in their tissues. Experts say coral bleaching tends to occur when the water temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius.

Since large-scale coral bleaching was observed in the Sekisei lagoon in summer 2016, the Environment Ministry has conducted a survey on the reef several times a year.

As the sea temperature around the lagoon often fell below 30 degrees Celsius in summer 2017, the latest survey found only 0.1 percent of coral in the area had died as a result of bleaching, significantly below the 70.1 percent from a year earlier. Moreover, healthy coral covered 14.7 percent of the total area of the reef inhabitable by the invertebrate, slightly above the 11.6 percent of a year earlier.

A nationwide Environment Ministry survey conducted last year shows that about 30 percent of the coral off Okinawa and the Amami Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture had bleached -- up more than 10 points from 2016 -- as a result of rising water temperatures.


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Best of our wild blogs: 20 Jan 18



11 Feb (Sun) - Free guided walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

2018 Guided Walk Schedule
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs


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106 critically endangered hawksbill turtles hatch on Sentosa's Tanjong Beach

Audrey Tan Straits Times 19 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - What's tiny, green, covered in sand and Singapore's latest celebration of wildlife?

Over 100 hawksbill turtles - which emerged out of eggs buried at a Sentosa beach on Friday morning (Jan 19), adding to the population of these critically-endangered reptiles.

The 106 hatchlings made their way into the waters at Sentosa's Tanjong Beach in what is the third time hawksbill turtles have hatched here since August.

Officers from the National Parks Board (NParks) took measurements and carried out checks on the baby turtles before they were released into the sea, said Sentosa Development Corporation, which manages the island.

The turtle nest was first spotted by a beachgoer on Nov 10 last year. There have been two other sightings in Sentosa, in 2010 and 1996.

A barrier was built around the nest to keep the eggs safe from natural predators such as monitor lizards and crabs, and reduce potential disturbance during the incubation period, the Sentosa spokesman told The Straits Times.

"As the hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species, Sentosa Development Corporation... performed daily checks on the nest after the discovery," he said.

Hawksbill Turtle nest on Sentosa's Tanjong Beach

Hawksbill turtles grow to about 1.1m in terms of shell length and weigh about 68kg. Their name comes from tapering heads ending in a sharp point which resembles a beak.

This is the third batch of turtle hatchlings to emerge from Singapore's beaches since last August. Two other clutches of hawksbill turtle eggs were found in East Coast Park and these hatched in August and November last year.

Said turtle ecologist Rushan Abdul Rahman, 28: "It is not unusual to find turtles nesting on sandy beaches in the tropics, although some people may be surprised to know that this phenomenon takes place in urban Singapore too."

But he added that much of turtle nesting habits in Singapore remained unknown, such as whether hawksbill turtles return to the same exact location every time they return to nest, and how often they make nesting migrations.

Mr Rushan said that other studies have shown that some loggerhead turtle populations are happy to nest within a 100km range, whereas green turtles off Brazil's Ascension Island are much fussier about where they nest.

A Marine Turtle Working Group - comprising staff from NParks, academics from institutions such as the National University of Singapore, and interest groups and individuals - was re-established in 2016 to learn more about Singapore's native turtles.

If a turtle is spotted, people should keep their distance and speak softly, say experts. Touching the creature may scare or provoke it. People should also not handle the eggs as this might damage them.

Members of the public can call the Sentosa hotline on 1800-SENTOSA (7368672) if they spot a turtle nest on the resort island, and NParks on 1800-471-7300 if turtles are spotted at other parts of Singapore.


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