Best of our wild blogs: 29 Sep 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [23 - 29 Sep 2013]
from Green Business Times

Fish farm trash on northern Ubin
from wild shores of singapore

Enchanting Forests
from lekowala!

Discussing a Sustainable Singaporean Future
The Independent Singapore News

Morning Walk At Upper Seletar Reservoir (29 Sep 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

mama spider creating web @ SBWR - 29Sep2013
from sgbeachbum

Bar-tailed Godwit @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Luke Gibson et al.: forest fragments suffer small mammal community loss in just 5-25 years; invasive rat monoculture dominates from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

The ghost monkeys of Bukit Brown
from Two Girls and Some Monkeys

Slender Duskdarter
from Monday Morgue

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Marine heritage needs protection

Straits Times Forum 30 Sep 13;

I MADE a visit to St John's Island recently. After an interview with a local fisherman, I discovered that the fishing stocks there are dwindling.

The inter-tidal pools next to the jetty are filled with weed at this time of the year. The waters are murky due to sedimentation and fishing catches are small and unsustainable throughout the year.

This fisherman told me that waters were pristine and large sharks and lobsters were abundant previously.

Anthropogenic activities and a busy shipping industry have also caused the decline of the ecosystem. As a result, species may be endangered or extinct.

Development has taken a toll on the marine ecosystem. In Singapore, there are environmental protection laws on the control of silty water discharge into the sea; control on air and noise pollution; and protection from felling for heritage trees in Singapore.

However, we do not have laws on the protection of minimum fish-catch sizes, and actions to gazette St John's Island as a marine reserve.

These actions will ensure that valuable marine heritage is preserved in order for generations to enjoy.

Reggie Koh (Dr)

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IPCC Climate Change Report: Experts React

Denise Chow Yahoo News 28 Sep 13;

Scientists and other experts all over the world are reacting today (Sept. 27) to the report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that scientists are more certain than ever of the link between human activities and global warming.

In the report, climate scientists now say they are at least 95 percent certain that people are responsible for majority of the climate change effects seen since the 1950s, including warming oceans, melting ice and rising sea levels.

Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the report, called climate change "the greatest challenge of our time," and warned that without decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of the impacts of global warming will not only continue, but accelerate.

Today's report is the first of four that will make up the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report. The remaining parts, which will examine the socioeconomic impacts of climate change and ways to mitigate its effects, will be released in 2014. [See how the 2013 IPCC report compares to previous predictions]

LiveScience reached out and asked scientists and other experts about their reactions to the report (published statements were also used). Here's what they said:

David Vaughan, IPCC author and climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey

"Somebody said, what's the point? Actually I think it's a very good opportunity for the public, politicians and policymakers to reflect on climate change, and to just take a little while, while it's in the news, to absorb the new science and to reflect on what we might do about it.

"There's no right or wrong answer, and some countries may be more enthusiastic to cut carbon emissions, others to develop renewable energy, and developing countries may feel they must develop as fast as possible, but all of those strategies have impacts.

"The IPCC reports are really good times for society to reflect on the issues. We scientists are trying to bring everything up into public awareness in a way that it can be understood, and just put it on the map again. I think climate change, as an issue, has somewhat gone off the back burner. We've had a lot of international issues to deal with; maybe it's time to go back and reflect on what more we know. [Video - Climate Change Impact: NASA's 21st Century Predictions]

"I am really pleased that the sea level projections are made complete, that they have an Antarctica and Greenland dynamic contribution. We're really honing in on the amounts of sea level rise we're going to get.

"The thing we really need to do next is hone in on where that water will go — honing in on regional patterns of sea level rise. Really, not everybody is going to see sea level rise in the same way."

Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development

"The latest IPCC report confirms much of what we know already — that human activities are responsible for rising temperatures and increased climate instability across the world. Continued greenhouse gas emissions will unleash a wild mix of dangerous impacts.

"But there is also value in what the IPCC report does not say, such as how the climate will change from place to place. Climate models are not yet robust enough to predict impacts at local and regional scales, but it is clear from the experience of the many people with whom we work, who have faced loss and damage this year alone, that everybody is vulnerable in some way.

"This uncertainty about local impacts, coupled with the certainty that impacts will come, is a stark warning that everyone needs to get ready. Citizens and business leaders worldwide need to press governments to act, both at home and on the international stage."

Al Gore, environmentalist and former vice president of the United States (Gore shared a Nobel Peace Prize with the IPCC in 2007)

"The latest report by the IPCC is an important milestone in the study of climate science."

Gregory Johnson, IPCC author and oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

"What this report has done is a careful analysis of all the signals we're observing in [the] changing climate — melting sea ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers, changes in the water cycles, changes in extreme events — and basically looked at the fingerprints of all those events and managed to attribute all those phenomena to a greater or lesser extent to climate change.

"The important thing to take away from this is there are multiple lines of evidence now that make us confident to the level of extremely likely that climate is changing." [8 Ways Global Warming is Already Changing the World]

Gerald Meehl, IPCC lead author and senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research

"The main message is the planet's warming. We're more certain now that humans are responsible — we're the dominant factor to affecting climate — we have this certainty. The certainty is extremely likely, which translates into 95 percent sure that's the case, we have better estimate of sea level rise, we now have ways to account to contributions for melting of Greenland and melting of west Antarctic ice sheets. [Image Gallery: Greenland's Melting Glaciers]

"There's much stronger evidence connecting human activity to changes in temperature, melting glaciers and ocean warming. There's a lot more evidence that connects human activity to changes in the climate system.

"I think when you look at the future projections and you look at these different scenarios, and you see the very high scenario when you don't do anything — as an example, we would have a nearly ice-free Arctic in [the] summer by near midcentury — you get those kind of fairly dramatic changes.

"But, we can choose a different future. We have a choice right now. We can choose what kind of future we have by the choices we make right now."

Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and contributor to previous IPCC reports

"The important messages are that Earth has warmed significantly, most of the warming has to do with humans, Earth is going to keep warming under almost all future scenarios, and the chances of avoiding the 2-degree danger limits that governments have chosen is small, unless we get out there and develop and implement focused plans to start reducing emissions immediately.

"IPCC reports have been influential in getting governments' attention, even though they lag way behind where they should be. I expect this report to remind governments that they had better find a way to act together and act soon, although it's also true that a lot of governments are going at it on their own. Still, it would be better if they were more coordinated."

Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the International Institute for Environment and Development's climate change group, and coordinating lead author of the IPCC's Working Group II report

"The IPCC has confirmed what many millions of people in the developing world are already well aware of, namely that the weather patterns have already changed for the worse. People in richer countries are vulnerable too, as recent floods, droughts and storms in Europe, North America and Australia have shown, but because of political inertia and powerful vested interests that have dominated media narratives for decades, they are less aware of the links between these impacts and their carbon emissions.

"Climate change affects us all and we must tackle it together. The time has come for global solidarity. This would enable the individual polluter (be they in a rich country or poor country) to recognize his or her personal responsibility and to try to connect with the victims of their pollution.

"Climate change ignores borders, but so do friendship and solidarity. It is time for national interests to give way to the global good. I hope the strong message from IPCC will galvanize actions by politicians and publics around the world."

LiveScience Staff Writer Becky Oskin contributed reporting.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Sep 13

smooth-coated otter @ Ubin-OBS 28Sep2013
from sgbeachbum

Life History of the Large Snow Flat
from Butterflies of Singapore

Oriental Magpie-robin anting
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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HDB says no immediate plans to develop Tampines Eco Green

Lip Kwok Wai and Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 27 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has said the Tampines Eco Green park at Tampines North will remain untouched for now.

This is despite it being zoned as a residential area under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's 2008 Masterplan.

Bound by Tampines Avenue 12 and Tampines North with an area of 36.5 hectares, the Eco Green park takes up 15 per cent of the land at Tampines North.

Responding to queries from MediaCorp, the HDB said there are no immediate development plans for the area, adding that it intends to keep it as a park for as long as possible.

The HDB unveiled its plans for the new housing area in August, but property analysts said the HDB's current plans to build 21,000 homes on the rest of the land should be sufficient to meet existing demand.

Director of Chris International, Chris Koh, explained: "If you don't put aside green areas, or keep eco in that estate, what's going to happen (is) it's just going to look overly built-up.

“If it's all built-up, there's nothing more you can build. So possibly they're thinking of putting a few green areas aside, so if ever one day we need to redevelop, we need to, for example expand, build more, at least you have these sites you can consider."

- CNA/gn

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Singapore to study local impact of global climate change findings

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 28 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Significant changes in rainfall patterns and increased rising of sea levels by the year 2100 were among the findings of a global climate science study.

The findings were released by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Stockholm on Friday.

The Singapore government said it will contextualise the global findings and study their impact on the country so that resilience plans can continue to be reviewed and adjusted.

The changes revealed in the findings suggest that Singapore could see more intense and frequent bouts of heavy rainfall as a result.

In Singapore, the number of days each year with heavy rainfall of more than 70mm in an hour has already shown a spike.

It rose from five days in 1980 to 10 days in 2012.

The annual maximum rainfall intensity in an hour also increases from 80mm in 1980 to 107mm in 2012.

The findings also imply that increased temperatures, which Singapore experiences only occasionally now, could become the norm in the future.

Aggressive climate change could affect how Singaporeans carry out their daily activities and the way future infrastructure is planned.

The findings from the international study will be used to provide updated projections of aspects like temperature, rainfall and sea level changes in Singapore's second National Climate Change study.

This means the relevant government agencies will be well-prepared to cope with the impact of such changes in the future.

The second study will start in November this year.

The Centre for Climate Research Singapore will work with the UK Met Office to project climate parameters in greater detail to help the government better understand the local impact of climate change.

Dr Chris Gordon, director of the Centre for Climate Research Singapore at the Meteorological Service Singapore, said: "Heavy rainfall on the extreme end leads to flooding. This is the main impact of concern and so those projections need to be taken into account in terms of such things as the drainage infrastructure...

"These are already being taken into account in Singapore in the planning that's going on. But these updated projections will feed into that process to ensure it's robust against those future changes."

Separately, the second phase of the first National Climate Change study concluded this year.

This phase looked into the impact of climate change on issues such as public health, biodiversity, the energy consumption of buildings and urban temperature profile.

The findings have been disseminated to the relevant agencies to use in their resilience plans, which include enhancing the stability and connectivity of existing green areas and putting in place plans to better understand the effects of urbanisation together with climate change.

- CNA/ir

More intense and frequent rainfall expected
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 28 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE - Singapore and South-east Asia can expect more intense and frequent rainfall events in future, and extreme temperatures that the Republic currently experiences occasionally could become the norm.

Speaking to the media this afternoon (Sept 28), a day after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth Assessment Report (AR5) Summary for Policymakers in Stockholm, the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) gave an overview of what the report’s findings mean for Singapore.

The South-east Asian region could see an increase in average temperature of 3 to 4°C by the period of 2081 to 2100 under the most severe climate change scenario, and a rise of 0.5 to 1°C under the least severe scenario, said CCRS director Dr Chris Gordon.

A 3 °C rise in average temperature over Singapore would mean:

- Daily maximum temperatures of 34 °C that now occur 10 per cent of the time, will become the average daily maximum

- A 25 per cent increase in rainfall rate for daily rainfall events every 20 years, from 294mm to 367mm

Already, Singapore’s rate of warming in the past 62 years was 0.26 °C per decade – more than double the global trend of 0.12 °C per decade. This could be due to regional variations in man-made global warming, long-term climate variability in the region and urbanisation.

Rainfall intensity in an hour has also increased from 80mm to 107mm between 1980 and last year, although it is currently not scientifically possible to attribute this to global warming.

Another IPCC finding of particular relevance to Singapore is the enhanced estimates of sea level rise, said Dr Gordon. The AR5 projects a rise of 0.26m to 0.82m by the period of 2081 to 2100, depending on the level of greenhouse gas emissions. But specific projections for Singapore must take into account regional variations and local land movements, he said.

Research is being done by the Earth Observatory of Singapore to estimate the amount and rate of downward motion of land around the island that may result from a large earthquake in West Sumatra, which the observatory expects to take place in the coming decades.

Land subsidence will increase the rate of sea level rise – following the 2004 Aceh-Andaman earthquake, parts of Thailand have been moving downward by up to 1cm yearly, according to Assistant Professor Emma Hill of the Earth Observatory.

The latest AR5 models will be used in Singapore’s Second National Climate Change Study, which began last November. Its first phase, consisting of climate projections, is expected to complete by end-2014. Together with the United Kingdom Meteorological Office, the CCRS will provide localised and updated projections of temperature, rain, wind and sea level changes.

The projections will then be used by infrastructure agencies for climate impact assessments, expected to end by 2015 or 2016, said Ms Wong Chin Ling, director-general of the Meteorological Service Singapore.

Dr Gordon said that IPCC findings, while not a surprise to climate scientists, provide stronger projections about intensity of rainfall for wet regions in the tropics and should give greater confidence to policymakers about what the effects of climate change actually are. The projections should aid planning in areas such as drainage going forward, he said.

NParks to work on enhancing resilience of eco-systems here: National Climate Change Study

Past fragmentation of Singapore’s forests make them vulnerable to future long-term changes such as increased likelihood or duration of drought, and higher average temperatures. This was among some of the findings of the recently-completed First National Climate Change Study, which were revealed today by the authorities. The National Parks Board plans to work with other agencies and the community to safeguard existing species, connect fragmented patches and enhance resilience of ecosystems.

In the areas of urban temperature profile and energy consumption, factors of greenery, building height and building density were found to strongly influence temperature at both the macro and micro levels. Climate change was found to have some impact on respiratory disease, although it is not the main factor. The National Environment Agency and Health Ministry are studying the relationship between climatic factors such as temperature and rainfall, and public health risks such as dengue fever. They will look into forecasting the risk of disease transmission under different scenarios.

Singapore could see hotter, wetter days next century
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 29 Sep 13;

Singapore should brace itself for hotter and wetter days in the next century.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday held its own briefing on what a long-anticipated global climate change study by a United Nations panel - which was released on Friday - means for Singapore.

According to NEA's preliminary findings, if the earth heats up by 2100 as expected, very heavy storms in Singapore will "very likely" become even more frequent and intense.

A 3 deg C rise in Singapore's temperature, for instance, means that a very heavy storm, which has a 1 per cent chance of happening in any given year, will be five times as likely to occur.

Heavy storms have already become more frequent here in the last few decades, according to the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS).

In 1980, there were only five days with rainfall of more than 70mm in an hour. That increased to 10 days last year.

The highest amount of rain which fell in an hour also increased from 80mm in 1980 to 107mm over the same period.

Hotter "temperatures that Singapore encounters occasionally now could become the norm in the future", the NEA added in a press statement.

Singapore has been heating up at a rate of 0.26 deg C every decade between 1951 and last year. This is twice the global trend of a 0.12 deg C rise every 10 years in the same period.

The difference may be partly due to urbanisation here, according to the NEA.

Singapore's average daily maximum temperature between 1972 and last year was 31 deg C, while the hottest recorded was 36 deg C in 1998.

The global study also suggested that both the extreme weather patterns related to the El Nino phenomenon could become more intense.

This may lead to drier weather in Indonesia and worsen the annual haze in Singapore, said CCRS director Chris Gordon, although he added that more detailed studies were needed.

The NEA said it would use the global study's findings in its Second National Climate Change Study, expected to be completed by next year. This will provide local projections for temperature, rainfall, wind and sea levels up to 2100.

The findings will be handed over to the relevant agencies for their own studies on how Singapore can cope with the climate changes. These are expected to be finished by 2016.

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Indonesia expected to sign haze agreement this year

Indra Harsaputra The Jakarta Post 28 Sep 13;

Indonesia is expected to sign the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution by the end of the year, thus strengthening its commitment in dealing with the haze issue in the Southeast Asian region.

Arif Yuwono, the deputy environment minister for environmental damage control and climate change, said the draft agreement was currently being discussed by the House of Representatives and was expected to be approved by the government by the end of the year at the latest.

“Indonesia’s willingness to sign the agreement is not attributable to pressure by Malaysia and Singapore, but the spirit as an ASEAN member country,” he told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

Separately, after attending the 14th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and related meetings in Surabaya, East Java, recently, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said the ministry had discussed the haze issue with participating countries, including Malaysia and Singapore.

“Regarding haze, we must seek a joint solution to overcome it so as to prevent it from recurring. We must raise awareness because the drought will last until October,” Balthasar told journalists.

He said Indonesia was currently formulating a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Singapore and Malaysia on joint haze supervision.

“The agreement with Singapore and Malaysia is in the form of joint research and particular matters concerning joint haze management. Malaysia also has the same interest,” said Balthasar.

As was known earlier, the Malaysian and Singaporean governments had urged Indonesia to immediately sign the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, a border treaty on haze management, which was signed on June 10, 2002. The treaty was put into effect on Nov 25, 2003, but of the 10 ASEAN member countries, Indonesia is the only country which has yet to ratify the treaty.

The call to sign the agreement emerges following the haze in Riau that also blanketed Singapore and Malaysia in June and July this year. Singapore claimed that the recent haze was the worst in 16 years. The issue had even sparked diplomatic war of words between Indonesia and the two neighboring countries.

Land and forest fires have been a major problem in Riau for years as smallholders and plantation firms allow slash-and-burn farming methods. Former National Police detectives chief Comr. Gen. (ret.) Ito Sumardi, who led the Riau Police between 2005 and 2006, revealed that a number of agricultural firms usually ordered their contractors to clear their land.

“Indonesia is still able to overcome the haze without assistance from Singapore. Haze is a joint issue so don’t just blame Indonesia,” said Balthasar.

He added the Indonesian government was serious in taking action against eight companies which intentionally set fire to concession areas and sparked forest and peatland fires in Riau and caused Singapore to be shrouded by thick haze.

“One of the eight companies is involved in palm oil and pulp activities. We will impose sanctions, including revoking its business permit,” said Balthasar.

Earlier in Riau, Balthasar disclosed that one of the eight companies was also indicated to come from Malaysia.

“We are further conducting the investigation. Those involved in the investigation are from the prosecutor’s office, police, forestry and agriculture offices,” he added.

Balthasar said his office was also currently examining 24 suspects.

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Coral alert: destruction of reefs 'accelerating' with half destroyed over past 30 years

The eco-system has been around for tens of millions of years and we are wiping it out within a hundred, says IPCC scientist
Tom Bawden The Independent 23 Sep 13;

The rapid decline of the world's coral reefs appears to be accelerating, threatening to destroy huge swathes of marine life unless dramatic action is swiftly taken, a leading ocean scientist has warned.

About half of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed over the past 30 years, as climate change warms the sea and rising carbon emissions make it more acidic.

But the trend now looks to be accelerating, said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the scientist in charge of the ocean chapter of the forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"Our oceans are in an unprecedented state of decline due to pollution, over-fishing and climate change. The state of the reefs is very poor and it is continuing to deteriorate," said Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, of the University of Queensland.

"This is an eco-system that has been around for tens of millions of years and we are wiping it out within a hundred. It's quite incredible."

In addition to working on the IPCC report, Professor Hoegh-Guldberg is leading by far the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the world's coral reefs, the Catlin Seaview Survey (CSS). Its initial findings demonstrate that the reefs are getting "increasingly hammered" from all sides, he said.

"The coral reefs' decline seems to be accelerating rather than decelerating, but I would add the caviat that the ultimate evidence will come in about five years time," he added. That is because the CSS will be the first to provide a detailed worldwide picture of coral reefs, many of which have never been documented before. Only by comparing the result of this survey with the situation as it develops in the coming years can the true picture of the decline be known.

The CSS builds up a picture of the state of the world's coral reefs using a specially designed tablet-operated underwater camera that travels along sections of the reef collecting thousands of images using continuous high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic imagery.

The survey has just posted its results online so far - based on expeditions to the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean and Bermuda - so that it can be used by policy makers and scientists around the world.

Coral reefs - made from calcium carbonate secreted by tiny corals - are among the most biodiverse, or species-rich, habitats in the world. They support thousands of species, including tropical fish, whales, dolphins, turtles, birds, sea snakes and sea grass.

Because they are so rich in life, they are regarded as the "canary in the coal mine" for the ocean for the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, in the same way that levels of Arctic ice are seen as the best barometer on land.

"Coral reefs are incredibly important to hundreds of millions of people who really on fishing for their livelihoods and for tourism - and for coastal protection, because the waves crash down on the reefs several hundred metres from the shore, protecting the coast and the food it provides," Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said.

The UN estimates that coral reefs directly support the livelihoods of nearly 300 million people and have an "economic value" of up to £107bn in research that attempts to put a price tag on the "natural services" it provides, such as being a nursery for fish and protecting the coastline.

The chapter on Oceans that Prof Hoegh-Guldbert is overseeing, jointly with one other scientist, will appear in the second part of the forthcoming IPCC report, which will be published in March. The first part will be published on Friday.

Although the outlook for coral reefs is dire, he said the battle has not yet been lost. For some reason, many of the reefs in Bermuda "are looking fairly good", he said, and this could provide lessons for how to protect reefs more generally.

Furthermore, reefs can recover relatively quickly if the pressure on them decreases. A significant global switch to renewable energy - while far from likely - would give the reefs a new lease of life.

"By the middle of the century, global temperatures could stabilise and ocean acidification could reverse - it's actually doable," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

"If we go in the direction we are now, we are lost with no chance of recovery. But if we listen to what the IPCC report tells us, and take that advice, and get on and form the partnerships to do it, we can turn the situation around. But if we wait another 10 years, we'll be too far gone."

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Sep 13

Free public walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk - 5th Oct 2013 (Sat)
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Serenity and Diversity @ Lower Peirce Reservoir Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Butterflies Galore! : Plain Palm Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Minister Desmond Lee wants to make Singapore truly home

Straits Times 28 Sep 13;

New Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee got his first taste of politics at age four, when he held up a tape recorder at an election rally for his father, former education minister Lee Yock Suan. As the Government's point man on heritage and green issues, the former lawyer wants to upend the assumption that the State stands for relentless development, and tells Rachel Chang that he is a nature-loving conservationist at heart.

What is your job at the Ministry of National Development?

I'm focused on the push to keep Singapore as a city in the garden. We started off many years ago as a garden city, but "the city in the garden" is not just a play on words but literally a change in thinking.

In the early years, we focused on issues of survival, on existence. Housing, roofs... But we have some space (now) to focus more on issues of soul, of spirit, issues that make Singaporeans cherish what we have as home. We are talking more in terms of building homes, communities, living spaces, as opposed to infrastructure and amenities.

I'm also working on heritage issues. In the past, we had no problem with protecting places of national significance, like City Hall. But increasingly, people might feel a bit disoriented if the pace of change is such that they lose a building, a school, or a corner of an estate that they hold personally dear to themselves.

For example, Rulang Primary School in Jurong West (Mr Lee's constituency) is a place with 80 years of history, set up by villagers with their own funds for their children. It was re-sited a long time ago, but they still cherish very fond memories, and I asked them if they would consider finding the former location and placing a marker, so that alumni and future generations will know how the school started.

Finding innovative ways to allow people to retain personal memories in a way that will balance the needs of development for the wider population of Singaporeans: that is the challenge. How to retain a sense of place and the memories that go with that, in the pace of change that we have here.

Many see the Government as not on the side of conservation.

That is a narrative that comes from a particular angle. But I think you have to look at it from what we are actually doing on the ground, and what more we can do. It's not really a case where it's polar opposite demands of on the one hand, you must develop, and on the other hand, you must conserve. We want to do both. It's not an easy line to tread. We must find new and innovative ways to do so. We must take time. The process will be slower than in the early days when development moved faster.

Ultimately, a decision has to be made, and we need to move, but we need to do so in a sense which weighs the things that are very hard to measure. Memories, heritage, sense of rootedness, sense of the here and now, sense of where we are.

It's not like goodwill - like this brand attracts X amount of value. What I just described is very hard to value and to put on the weighing scale. But my personal sense is that it is something extremely dear and important. It's the sense of who you are, and no amount of development can compensate for a loss of identity. And therefore this is something that I would like to focus a lot more on.

You watched the fight for Bukit Brown as a backbencher. What did you take away on how to handle such issues in the future?

Ultimately, the decision - to build a costlier green bridge to limit the damage to the site - took two years. In every plan, there will be people who raise their concerns, some of which we know exist, some which we don't know exist. It's a process of bringing people to the table, having a conversation and then trying to build a consensus.

It was not a case of, let's just build and if people don't stir it up, we will go ahead. Not the case where you just bulldoze through, that was not how the Bukit Brown story developed.

But Singapore is a young nation, and as we move into the future, the things that Singaporeans hold dear to themselves change. Their perspectives change, and so, too, does the Government have to change its processes to accommodate this.

It was a learning journey for everybody - as much for the Government as for the heritage groups and the planners, and for all Singaporeans - that when you feel passionately about something, speak up and be counted. That is the positive lesson we all can draw from this.

What were the lessons you took away for your own engagement with conservation groups?

I think, announce your plans at a very early stage if you can, let people know, be transparent.

I come from the point of view that, when some groups appear adversarial, ask yourself why they feel the need to be adversarial. Let them vent, then ask them, put yourselves in their shoes and let them show you very clearly the value of what they are protecting.

And we must show them that we want to have a genuine conversation without a preconceived destination. There is no orchestrated intent.

And hopefully, when cooler heads prevail but passions undimmed, we can move closer to a win-win situation, not a compromise that satisfies no one, not a cop-out, but that sweet spot. If you can achieve that, that would be a major triumph for nation-building.

What is an example of such a win-win?

Pulau Semakau. I recently went there with a youth group, and the Nature Society people took us around to see the intertidal mudflats. The interesting thing is, there is a dump for all the rubbish that's been incinerated there. They're so careful about measuring the border between the dumping site and the nature area. We have fulfilled the needs of Singapore's waste management and in a way that's absolutely sensitive to the fragile ecosystem that is at its very door.

We have been able to preserve the spirit of old buildings while renewing them. Like the Cathay cinema in Bras Basah. It's not perfect, but if you ask anyone who has been to the old cinemas, they can recognise that frontage.

To me, a successful city-state, one that endures, must have depth, have identity. We don't have a hinterland for people to let off steam and come back. Even Hong Kong has the Lantau islands, the hills, for people to recharge. In Singapore, we don't. So we must have that cultural ballast, that weight of history.

My kindergarten is now a junction under a highway. I have a picture of me receiving an award from (former law minister) Eddie Barker when I was in that kindergarten.

Some say, who cares? But in the end, I'll tell my kids, Papa graduated from K2 under that highway.

You are following in your father's footsteps. He also started off as Minister of State for National Development, in 1983. Do you think you'll have a tougher time in Government than him?

Everyone says that. I once thought so, but it's not true. First, the issues are so different. They were fighting the communists back then in the 1960s. That was a different ball game. It was your life, you could get killed. Later on, there were policies that got people very passionate, CPF or the graduate mothers' scheme.

That's no different from today. People are people, and they have a sense of what affects them.

Maybe back then people had more of the same goals, and the issues, of housing, water, electricity, you could clearly see which policies benefited the majority. But it was painful - relocation, for example.

Till today, there are people who feel the angst of having been forced to leave their farms decades ago.

It may be harder today to tell which are the policies that clearly benefit the majority. And it is perhaps easier for people to express their views today. But I wouldn't dare say that last time, they were more compliant or more willing to accept pain.

I wouldn't be arrogant as to say that my job now is tougher than it was for my father or his compatriots. For all politicians who want to bring Singapore to a better place, there will always be these challenges.

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The natural thing to do in design and building

Shelters should respect and protect the surroundings, says Ken Yeang
Cheong Suk-Wai Straits Times 28 Sep 13;

AS A practising architect for more than 40 years, Malaysian Ken Yeang is only too aware of how much humanity has degraded the environment for millennia.

Penang-born Dr Yeang, 65, says: "We can clear land, change climates, dam rivers, blow up towns, scrape the earth and flatten hills. So we're the most powerful of all species."

He was in town a fortnight ago to speak at the Build Eco Xpo Asia.

The question is: How best should people exercise such power?

His answer has been to pioneer ground-breaking ways to design buildings such that they are as natural as trees lining roads.

Of that, British architect Norman Foster, who is himself a leading proponent of eco-architecture, wrote in a 2011 commemorative book of Dr Yeang's work: "In contrast to the hermetically- sealed, air-conditioned tower, his high-rise buildings... are naturally lit and ventilated, linked to terraces and interspersed with lush vegetation - even though they may be 30 storeys above ground."

So it is that Dr Yeang's big idea is that human beings should build shelters that respect, conform to and protect their surroundings - and not the other way round as has long been the case.

This approach to building design is called eco-architecture, and one that became trendy only after 1990, although Dr Yeang had worked on it since the 1970s.

Another architectural titan, American Charles Jencks, who trained Dr Yeang in the 1970s, says of him: "As a realist, he is one of the very few willing to operate in the gap between necessity, compunction and hope."

Dr Yeang's quest to embrace, not repel, Mother Nature in construction began in 1971, when he was a researcher at Cambridge University.

His then supervisor, the sustainable building technologies pioneer Alexander Pike, got him working on an autonomous house, that is, one that could warm and cool itself without plugging into the city's power or water grids.

But the more Dr Yeang probed that, the more he realised that the better approach was to understand fully the character and constraints of a building site first, and then design a shelter that would showcase the environment's best features while using up as few resources as possible.

So he decided to study ecological design and masterplanning fully with another Cambridge University supervisor, Dr John Frazer, and in 1974 obtained his PhD in the field.

He has since honed his approach by melding greenery, water sources, human needs and engineering techniques to create "seamless and benign" solutions to living that "mimic" nature.

"I started doing this because we are making our world more and more artificial with inorganic and synthetic things," he says.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica reckons that since 2000, the planet's buildings have used up 16 per cent of the world's fresh water, between 30 and 40 per cent of all electricity supplied and, by weight, 50 per cent of all raw materials. Buildings also emit about 30 per cent of all greenhouse gases. These are nightmare statistics when you consider that by 2050, 75 per cent of the world's population will live in concrete jungles.

To counter this, Dr Yeang has tried to mimic nature by:

Conceiving of a skyscraper as a giant tree, with ramps upon ramps as its branches. So he wraps ramps around the body of a building, lining them with vegetation to bring plants closer to people. Examples of this include his Solaris building within the 30ha Fusionopolis campus here and his Spire Edge development in Gurgaon, India;
Designing zigzag walls, each of which looks like the Allen key that furniture store Ikea provides to tighten furniture screws. He then positions these zigzag walls such that they let in the wind but keep out the rain; and
Designing a dwelling such that it can be a dynamic filter for the climate. For example, he positions a swimming pool such that breezes will blow across it and cool the interior of a house.

He stresses: "A building must look like a living system, not a dead concrete shell."

So not for him the "spotty" efforts of planting trees and shrubs in the corners of buildings, or the "eco-gadgetry" of installing environmentally-friendly devices.

The end in mind, he notes, is to "connect all things like how nature links greenery and birds and butterflies".

A prime example of his work is the National Library Board (NLB) headquarters here in Victoria Street.

Recalling the effort, Dr Yeang says: "It was a fun project. The NLB's then chief executive Christopher Chia supported me 100 per cent.

"When I first started work on it, Dr Chia drove me around Singapore for a whole day. He showed me stuff that he would and would not like to have in the building, from big enough carparks to toilets. Imagine that attention to detail."

A 2011 survey of staff and visitors to the building showed that 99.7 per cent of library users, and 87.2 per cent of staff, were satisfied with the NLB headquarters.

The married father of four studied architecture at Britain's Architectural Association in 1970, moving on to research work at Cambridge University in 1971.

After obtaining his PhD there in 1974, he returned to Malaysia and set up his practice, TR Hamzah & Yeang, with Malaysian prince Robert Hamzah in 1975.

Since 2005, Dr Yeang has had a British practice in partnership with architect Llewelyn Davies.

He says Singapore is one country that is definitely showing other countries the way.

"Your Building and Construction Authority is doing a good job by requiring developers to comply with Green Mark ratings before their plans can be approved. Very few governments do that."

For example, the NLB headquarters runs on 172kw of electricity per sq m per annum, compared to the average office building that needs 250kw per sq m per annum.

The average household runs on about 40kw per sq m per annum.

But, he is quick to add, ratings are not enough to take eco-architecture forward.

"Ratings are prescriptive; they say if you achieve this or that target, you will get something. We need to move to a performance-based cycle, where we do more holistic things like close the water cycle."

That includes harvesting rainwater, as Singapore does, so such readily available fresh water does not escape to the sea.

He adds: "Architecture is only a small part of the solution. The real issue is in being able to encourage our clients to make their businesses and industries green, such as by not paving land so much that water can no longer go back into the soil."

THE BIG IDEA IN HISTORY: Eco-architecture

THE trend towards constructing and maintaining a building with as little energy as possible stems from the global oil crisis of the 1970s, when much of the Western world and Japan experienced a petroleum shortage after supplies from Iran and the United States were disrupted.

But as The Economist notes, eco-architecture's roots go way back to the 19th century, when architects devised Crystal Palace in Britain and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Italy. London's Crystal Palace was ventilated naturally by cleverly designed roofs while the Milan mansion had underground chambers that cooled the air indoors and so regulated temperatures.

Eco-architecture, also known as green architecture, gained traction only in 1990, after the United Nations met to discuss the impact of climate change and what everyone could do about it. That year, the US' Green Building Council established its rating system for eco-friendly buildings, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Britain followed that in 2000, when it established its popular Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

Singaporeans began exploring eco-architecture in earnest in 2005, when the Building and Construction Authority launched its Green Mark Scheme, which benchmarks eco-friendly buildings desirably against all other properties in the market.

Among others, The National Library Board headquarters in Victoria Street and Republic Plaza in Raffles Place have attained the Green Mark Scheme's highest standard - Platinum - by consuming 70 per cent less energy than the industry average.

THE BIG IDEA IN ACTION: Building a house from matchsticks

ARCHITECTS face frequent design challenges, but rarely do they involve the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

Singaporean architect Jaye Tan, 34, took about five months to convince the drug-busters that her attempt to build a 314 sq m art gallery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens would not break laws here.

That is because her chosen material was industrial hemp hurd, which come in 11kg sacks and look like matchsticks, and are the inner fibres of stalks from the cannabis plant. The cultivation and consumption of cannabis is illegal here.

CNB has since cleared the hemp hurd of concerns.

She says that one needs to mix 10 sacks of hemp hurd with 10 25-kg sacks of construction lime binder to create one cubic metre of wall, which is hardy and freestanding.

The mulch-like mixture is then poured in between two wooden panels and tamped down with a broom-like tool to build up one cubic metre of wall. The wall dries to a sandstone-like finish.

Prices for industrial hemp vary, but she estimates that each tonne of the imported stuff cost between $200 and $400.

Ms Tan, who is an associate with home-grown firm DP Architects, won a commendation from the Building and Construction Authority in May for her green architecture efforts, and was invited to speak on her low-carbon footprint building methods at this year's Building Eco Xpo here a fortnight ago.

She also has the support of homegrown property developer CDL, which is underwriting her gallery project, and the National Parks Board, which has given her a site behind its Botany Centre for it.

If all goes well, she says, you will be able to visit the gallery in November.

She is determined to make a shelter out of hemp because the material is suitable for the tropics, being relatively cheap, water-repellent and recyclable.

Ms Tan was so taken by those features that she went to Ireland to learn how to build with it.

She found it hard initially to convince fellow architects

that they should build with hemp instead of "always extracting raw materials from the earth".

When The Straits Times visited her half-completed structure at the Botanic Gardens on Tuesday, she was discussing with the project's India-born foreman the option of building low-cost houses of hemp in his country.

She says: "What makes a building meaningful is not just that it is a space for people, but that it has a message for everyone in how to live better in this world."

Background story

THE BIG IDEA: Making buildings a part of nature

Award-winning architect Ken Yeang has made it his "lifetime agenda" to integrate man-made structures with flora and fauna. He does this by thinking of a building as an artificial limb of the greater organic body that is the natural landscape. Some of his ideas:

Design buildings to conserve electricity, energy and other non-renewable resources. Recycle resources such as rainwater by using it to cool a building. Use renewable resources such as solar cells as much as possible;
Design ramps that spiral around, or through, the facades of buildings, and line these ramps with plants. Better still, design cafes and other spaces along the ramps for people to rest and relax in; and
Turn rooftops of skyscrapers into lush parks, building roomy atria that funnel breezes through, as well as connecting separate towers with vegetatin-lined bridges.

Not for Dr Yeang the 'spotty' efforts of planting trees and shrubs in the corners of buildings, or the 'eco-gadgetry' of installing environmentally- friendly devices. The end in mind is to 'connect all things like how nature links greenery and birds and butterflies'.

Ken Yeang on...


"The Guardian is always finding ways to sell itself so it thought, 'Let's get a funny Malaysian to intrigue readers.'"


"I don't know whether or not I've made it globally. I'll find out after I die!"


"I have to suffer some people who don't really know enough about what to do. Then there are those who trust me and say, 'Okay, you teach me how to do it.' So I've spent 40 years teaching people how to become developers, and made them super-rich."


"I told them not to become architects because the architect's business model is not right - he designs for, and is paid by, the client early on, but spends years implementing his work amid growing problems."


"Educate them as you would your children; you know, depending on their ages, you could tell them, 'Do this or you're grounded for a month' or 'Do this or you're out of my will.'"


"I tell people not to give me things I cannot use; so every Christmas, I get only socks and handkerchiefs!"


"As Spiderman says, when you have such immense power, you have to be very prudent with it and use it for a good cause, rather than for selfish reasons."

Read more!

Malaysia: Coal-fired Power Plant is not a Sustainable Option

WWF 27 Sep 13;

25 September 2013, Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia has serious concerns over the recent announcement by the Federal Government to revive the coal-fired power plant project in the east coast of Sabah.

“Coal-fired power plant is not a sustainable option from the perspectives of long-term energy security, health and environment. We urge the government not to proceed with the coal-fired power plant plan but to explore and expand green energy resources.” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius S K Sharma.

Malaysia is already quite heavily dependent on imported coal for its power generation, particularly coal from Indonesia. Coal imports will rise if Malaysia chooses to build more coal-fired power plants. This will make the country even more susceptible to potential external volatilities such as fluctuation in global coal prices and interruption in supply.

Coal generated power plants are one of the single largest contributors to global warming. The global warming phenomenon threatens both the environment and the economies of every nation in the world including Malaysia.

Coal burning also compromises the health of the public through air and water pollution. It releases sulphur dioxide that pollutes the air and causes acid rain, nitrogen oxides that results in smog, particulate matter, mercury and other harmful pollutants. When these chemicals are circulating in the air, small acidic particulates penetrate human and wildlife lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream, burn lung tissues, increase asthma attacks and increase risk in chronic respiratory diseases.

One way to mitigate the potential external volatilities is to diversify our energy sources by increasing renewable energy (RE) sources and improving energy efficiency (EE).

Malaysia should honour its commitment made at ASEAN, i.e., to increase the development and utilization of RE sources to achieve the 15% target share of RE in ASEAN power generation mix by 2015.

“Sabah has 1.4 million hectares of palm oil plantations and these plantations generate tonnes of waste like empty fruit bunch (EFB), palm kernel shell (PKS) and decanter cake, which can be turned into renewable energy. By promoting this, WWF-Malaysia believes that Sabah is able to contribute to the Government’s target for RE and also contribute towards the nation’s aspiration of reducing greenhouse gases emissions intensity of GDP by 2020.” Dr Dionysius says.

Another cost-effective alternative is to reduce energy demand by improving energy efficiency in the state. This involves better use of energy through both the use of technology and the promotion of individual behaviour, working methods and industrial practices which are less energy-intensive. This requires enhancement of institutional and human capacity emphasizing the development of energy efficiency technology and service providers in the country, and encouraging private sector participation, especially financial institutions to support EE investment and implementation.

“Eastern Sabah is home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna and we are blessed to live with endemic species of plants and animals. To build a coal-fired power plant will surely have repercussion on the already fragile ecosystem and on the health of residence in the area.” Dr Dionysius said.

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Scientists more convinced mankind is main cause of warming

Alister Doyle and Simon Johnson Reuters Yahoo News 28 Sep 13;

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Leading climate scientists said on Friday they were more convinced than ever that humans are the main culprits for global warming, and predicted the impact from greenhouse gas emissions could linger for centuries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report that a hiatus in warming this century, when temperatures have risen more slowly despite growing emissions, was a natural variation that would not last.

It said the Earth was set for more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets that could swamp coasts and low-lying islands as greenhouse gases built up in the atmosphere.

The study, meant to guide governments in shifting towards greener energies, said it was "extremely likely", with a probability of at least 95 percent, that human activities were the dominant cause of warming since the mid-20th century.

That was an increase from "very likely", or 90 percent, in the last report in 2007 and "likely", 66 percent, in 2001.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the study was a call for governments, many of which have been focused on spurring weak economies rather than fighting climate change, to work to reach a planned U.N. accord in 2015 to combat global warming.

"The heat is on. Now we must act," he said of the report agreed in Stockholm after a week of talks between scientists and delegates from more than 110 nations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report was a wake-up call. "Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire," he said, referring to skeptics who question the need for urgent action.

They have become emboldened by the fact that temperatures rose more slowly over the last 15 years despite increasing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in emerging nations led by China. Almost all climate models failed to predict the slowing.


European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said it was time to treat the Earth's health. "If your doctor was 95 percent sure you had a serious disease, you would immediately start looking for the cure," she said.

Compiled from the work of hundreds of scientists, the report faces extra scrutiny this year after its 2007 edition included an error that exaggerated the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers. An outside review later found that the mistake did not affect its main conclusions.

The IPCC said some effects of warming would last far beyond current lifetimes.

Sea levels could rise by 3 meters (9 feet, 10 inches) under some scenarios by 2300 as ice melted and heat made water in the deep oceans expand, it said. About 15 to 40 percent of emitted carbon dioxide would stay in the atmosphere for more than 1,000 years.

"As a result of our past, present and expected future emissions of carbon dioxide, we are committed to climate change and effects will persist for many centuries even if emissions of carbon dioxide stop," said Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the talks.

The IPCC said humanity had emitted about 530 billion tons of carbon, more than half the 1 trillion ton budget it estimated as a maximum to keep warming to manageable limits. Annual emissions are now almost 10 billion tons and rising.

Explaining a recent slower pace of warming, the report said the past 15-year period was skewed by the fact that 1998 was an extremely warm year with an El Nino event - a warming of the ocean surface - in the Pacific.

It said warming had slowed "in roughly equal measure" because of random variations in the climate and the impact of factors such as volcanic eruptions, when ash dims sunshine, and a cyclical decline in the sun's output.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, told Reuters the reduction in warming would have to last far longer - "three or four decades" - to be a sign of a new trend.

And the report predicted that the reduction in warming would not last, saying temperatures from 2016-35 were likely to be 0.3-0.7 degree Celsius (0.5 to 1.3 Fahrenheit) warmer than in 1986-2005.

Still, the report said the climate was slightly less sensitive than estimated to warming from carbon dioxide.

A doubling of carbon in the atmosphere would raise temperatures by between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 to 8.1F), it said, below the 2-4.5 (3.6-8.1F) range in the 2007 report. The new range is identical to the ranges in IPCC studies before 2007.

The report said temperatures were likely to rise by between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century. The low end of the range would only be achieved if governments sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions.

And it said world sea levels could rise by between 26 and 82 cm (10 to 32 inches) by the late 21st century, in a threat to coastal cities from Shanghai to San Francisco.

That range is above the 18-59 cm estimated in 2007, which did not take full account of Antarctica and Greenland.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" said "the IPCC's moderate projections clearly contradict alarmist rhetoric" of higher temperature and sea level rises by some activists.

(Additional reporting by Nina Chestney in London, Barbara Lewis in Brussels, Valerie Volcovici in Washington; editing by Alistair Scrutton and Mark Trevelyan)

IPCC climate report: six things we've learned
The IPCC's long-awaited fifth assessment report says it is 'extremely likely' that humanity is to blame for global warming. What else can we learn from the report?
Adam Vaughan 27 Sep 13;

• Scientists are more certain than ever that humanity is to blame for rising temperatures. The head of the United Nations' World Meteorological Organisation, Michel Jarraud, said "it is extremely likely that changes in our climate system in the past half century are due to human influence." The report says: "Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system."

• Concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40% increase in CO2 concentrations since the industrial revolution.

• We're likely to surpass rises of 2C by 2100, the threshold of warming that governments have pledged to hold temperatures to, and beyond which dangerous consequences including drought, floods and storms are expected. "What is very clear is we are not" on the path to keeping temperatures below 2C, said Thomas Stocker, one of the co-chairs of today's report. Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century, the report said.

• Sea level rises are coming. "Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century," says today's report, by a further 26-82cm by 2100, but Stocker said "there is no consensus in the scientific community over very high sea level rises".

• Scientists said claims that the rate of temperature rises in the last 15 years has slowed did not affect the big picture, and temperatures are going up in the long-term. Climate trends "should not be calculated for periods of less than 30 years," said Stocker.

• The amount of carbon the world can burn without heading for dangerous levels of warming is far less than the amount of fossil fuels left in the ground. "The IPCC carbon budget to stay below 2C is 800-880 gigatonnes of carbon (GTC). 531 GTC had already been emitted by 2011. So we have 350 GTC left, which is much less than the carbon stored in fossil fuel reserves," notes our correspondent Fiona Harvey.

IPCC climate report: the digested read
The fifth assessment report from the IPCC looks at everything from oceans and sea ice to carbon budgets and geoengineering
Damian Carrington and John Vidal 27 Sep 13;

Global change

The global climate has already changed in many ways that are unprecedented in the past hundreds or thousands of years, the world's scientists and governments concluded in the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These changes have affected every region of the globe, on land and at sea. Continued carbon emissions will drive further heatwaves, sea level rise, melting ice and extreme weather. The changes will last for centuries and limiting the effects would require "substantial and sustained" cuts in carbon dioxide, the scientists report.

Scientists are now at least 66% certain that the last three decades are the warmest in 1400 years, with global temperature having risen by 0.9C in the last century. However, more than 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases is being stored in the oceans.

By mid-century, scientists predict a further rise of 1.4-2.6C if carbon emissions continue to rise as they are today. If emissions were halted almost immediately and significant carbon was extracted from the atmosphere, the rise by mid-century would be 0.4-1.6C.

The scientists predict the average temperature between 2080 and 2100 will be 2.6-4.8C higher than today if emissions are unchecked. They are 90% certain that heatwaves will be more frequent and longer.

In the oceans, the strongest surface warming is expected in tropical and sub-tropical regions, up to 2C by 2100 and posing a grave threat to coral reefs which sustain much sealife. Scientists conclude that a collapse of the Gulf Stream that warms western Europe, as dramatised in the film The Day After Tomorrow, is very unlikely this century but cannot be ruled out afterwards.

Global sea level has already risen by 20cm in the last century and scientists are now 90% certain that the rate of the rise will increase. The tide line is rising as warming glaciers and ice sheets pour hundreds of billions of tonnes of water into the oceans each year, but an equally big factor is the warming – and therefore expansion – of the seawater itself.

The new projections for the average sea level in the period 2080-2100 are greater than in the 2007 report, ranging from 45-82cm higher than now if nothing is done to curb emissions to 26-55cm if carbon emissions are halted and reversed. In the former case, sea level could have risen by a 98cm by the end of the century, seriously threatening cities from Shanghai to New York and meaning hurricanes and cyclones inflict far worse damage when they hit shorelines.

Sea level projections have been controversial because exactly how fast glaciers and ice sheets will slip into the sea is not well known. A collapse in ice sheets is therefore not included in the estimates and could add tens of centimetres more to the rise. Because the big Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are slow to melt, scientists predict melting and sea level rise will continue for centuries. If a temperature rise of between 1C and 4C is sustained, the vast Greenland ice sheet will completely melt adding 7m to sea level, scientists predict, but over the course of a millennium.

The acidity of the ocean is also increasing, due the large amounts of carbon dioxide it is absorbing, and this will continue. This will harm shell-forming sealife but scientists are still determining to what extent.

The impact of warming is crystal clear in the faster rates of melting in virtually all the world's glaciers and the huge ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The ice sheets have been shedding at least five times more water in the 2000s than in the 1990s, the scientists report. Northern hemisphere snow cover has fallen by 11% a decade since 1967 and the temperature of the seasonally frozen ground, or permafrost, has increased by 2-3C in Russia and Alaska.

Arctic sea ice has been melting by 9-14% a decade since 1979, while sea ice around Antarctica has been increasing by 1-2%, probably due to current changes.

Scientists are 90% sure that Arctic sea ice, snow cover and glaciers will continue to shrink. The scientists say a "nearly ice-free" Arctic ocean in September is at least 66% likely before 2050. By 2100 between 35% and 85% of the remaining world glacier volume will have vanished if emissions are not cut. Permafrost is also 99% likely to shrink further.

It is 90% certain that the number of warm days and nights has increased globally and heatwaves have become more frequent, lasting longer in Europe, Asia and Australia. Droughts have also become more frequent and intense in the Mediterranean and west African regions.

The number of heavy rainfall events over land has increased in more regions than it has decreased. It is virtually certain that the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic has increased since the 1970s.

The scientists concluded it is 99% certain that the frequency of warm days and warm nights increases in the next decades, while that of cold days and cold nights to decrease. The frequency and intensity of extreme downpours is very likely to increase in many populous regions.

The last decade has been the warmest on record but although CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to accelerate, surface air temperatures have only marginally increased in the past 15 years, leading some to suggest global warming has stopped. The IPCC scientists reject this, reporting that while the warming trend is robust over decades, there is "substantial" variability within decades. They conclude: "Trends based on short records ... do not in general reflect long-term climate trends."

They add that the heat being trapped by global warming in 2011 was 43% more than the estimate for 2005 in their last report and that over 90% of all the heat added enters the oceans.
Carbon budget

Scientists calculate that nearly half of all the carbon dioxide that can be safely emitted without raising temperatures above a dangerous 2C has already been emitted. This, says the IPCC, means governments must act quickly to have a reasonable change of avoiding 2C. It is also very likely that more than 20% of emitted CO2 will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years after man-made missions have stopped. According to the IPCC, a large fraction of climate change is thus "irreversible on a human time-scale", except if man-made CO2 emissions are sucked out of the atmosphere over a long period.

The scientists report that "geoengineering" the climate by reducing the amount of sunlight being absorbed by earth or by extracting and storing carbon dioxide and other climate-changing emissions is theoretically possible. But, the IPCC warns, there is insufficient knowledge to assess how effective such methods, such as pumping sunscreen chemical into the stratosphere, would be and warns of "side effects and long-term consequences on a global scale."
Abrupt change

It is "very likely" that the so-called Gulf Stream, which ferries warm water to western Europe, will weaken over the 21st century. But it is "very unlikely" to collapse or undergo a major transition this century. Further warming will lead to significant methane emissions from permafrost over the next century, equivalent to 50 to 250 billion tonnes of CO2. But the IPCC scientists do not assess the possibility of catastrophic releases this century.

In terms of data, information is still limited in some locations and especially from before 1950s. There is also limited data from oceans below 700m.

Theoretical uncertainties are how pollution affects cloud formation and the planet's overall climate "sensitivity", ie how much it responds to extra CO2 in the atmosphere. The new report slightly reduces the minimum climate sensitivity but at the report's launch event, co-chair Thomas Stocker said that change, if realised would slow the impacts of climate change by just a few years.

There is uncertainty about the contribution of human activity to changes in tropical cyclones and droughts.
Other explanations of warming

The scientists state: "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." The report rules out any significant contribution from changing solar cycles, volcanoes and cosmic rays.

Read more!

Climate change stars fade, even if risks rise

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 27 Sep 13;

Compared to the heady days in 2007 when U.S. climate campaigner Al Gore and the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists shared the Nobel Peace Prize, the risks of global warming may be greater but the stars preaching the message have faded.

With many governments focused on tackling short-term economic growth, the shift reinforces what former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sometimes called a "shocking lack of leadership" in confronting long-term global warming.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with ex-Vice President Gore, will issue a report on Friday in Stockholm about mounting risks of global warming, from heatwaves to rising sea levels.

"We need new voices," said Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute think-tank in Washington. "Hopefully the IPCC will inspire leadership, from the Mom to the business leader, to the mayor to the head of state."

It is a sign of the times that some of the world's most powerful figures such German Chancellor Angela Merkel - a former environment minister - U.S. President Barack Obama or Chinese Premier Li Keqiang appear to have put the issue on the backburner to focus on domestic economic issues.

Even former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who made global headlines in 2009 with the world's first underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of rising sea levels to his small islands, was forced from power in domestic turmoil. He is now seeking a comeback.

China and the United States are the top emitters of greenhouse gases seen by climate scientists as contributing to global warming.

Times have changed since, as environment minister, Merkel said in 1995 something that might well say today: "the existing commitments will not solve the climate change problem."

Drafts show that the IPCC will on Friday raise the probability that global warming is manmade to at least 95 percent from 90 in its previous report in 2007.


Much of the 'glamour' has gone since Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian chair of the IPCC, and Gore proudly showed off the Nobel gold medals in 2007, a time when firm global action on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases seemed feasible.

The problem proved intractable in the financial crisis. A U.N. summit in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to work out a deal, and many voters may simply have tired of hearing of global warming. Governments have now agreed to work out a U.N. accord in 2015.

"The IPCC has become more cautious ... it's a pity," said Yvo de Boer, former head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat who now works at auditors KPMG and was among those most outspoken about the need for action during his 2006-2010 term.

"You might ignore it (climate change) but it's not going to ignore you," he said. He said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could be the strongest up and coming leader on the issue.

Both Gore, the IPCC and Pachauri, now 73, won a series of international awards for their work in 2007. Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth", won an Oscar and standing applause at U.N. negotiating sessions when it was shown.

But Gore has also been worn down by criticisms, especially by U.S. Republicans who say his climate campaigns are alarmist and question the science behind them.

His later ventures have been less high profile. He sold his struggling cable channel, Current TV, to Al Jazeera in January. Gore's latest book, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," has won good reviews.

IPCC leaders including Pachauri have been less outspoken in recent months than before the 2007 report by the IPCC when he said, for instance, that he hoped it would "shock" the world into action.

A 2010 review by scientists in the InterAcademy Council (IAC), partly spurred by an error in the IPCC report that exaggerated a thaw in the Himalayas, said that IPCC leaders should stick to science and not recommend policies.

"Straying into advocacy can only hurt IPCC's credibility," it said. The IAC found no reason to question the IPCC's main conclusions despite the Himalayan mistake.

It is unclear who will succeed Pachauri when he retires in 2015. Jan Pascal van Ypersele, a Belgian physicist, is sometimes tipped.

Leadership is an elusive quality on climate change.

"In the run up to Copenhagen I was struck by the number of people talking about a lack of leaders who were meant to be leaders," de Boer said.

(With extra reporting by Deborah Zabarenko in Washington; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Ralph Boulton)

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Sep 13

It’s about time we learn about the life of an old resident of Singapore – “Uncommon Tales of a Common Monkey” by Amanda Tan (Fri 04 Oct 2013: 7.30pm @ SBG) from Otterman speaks

#13 Upper Pierce Reservoir Park
from My Nature Experiences

Forest Wagtail foraging
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Malaysia clearcutting forest reserves for timber and palm oil
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Singapore’s total population reaches 5.4m

Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 26 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's total population grew by 1.6 per cent to reach 5.4 million as of June this year.

That is the slowest growth rate in the past nine years, according to the latest report from the National Population and Talent Division.

As the population ages and shrinks, there has only been a marginal increase in the number of Singaporeans getting married and having babies.

This is despite a third round of enhancements to the Marriage and Parenthood (M&P) package at the start of the year aimed at encouraging Singaporeans to get married and have babies.

The M&P package was introduced in 2001 and the previous enhancements were implemented in 2004 and 2008.

There are now 3.31 million Singapore citizens, making up about 60 per cent of the total population.

Together with 0.53 million permanent residents (PR), the total number or residents stands at 3.84 million.

Non-residents, mainly transient workers, number about 1.55 million or a third of the total population.

But the numbers also show that their growth has slowed down due to the tightened foreign manpower policies and weaker economic conditions.

Growth in foreign employment in the non-construction sectors halved to 3.5 per cent from 7.1 per cent in 2012.

The report said foreign employment growth was mainly driven by the construction sector to support major ongoing infrastructure developments in housing and transport.

There are 35,000 foreign workers in the construction sector compared to about 29,000 the year before.

Singapore's population is ageing. The proportion of citizens aged 65 years and above increased from 7.8 per cent in 2002 to 11.7 per cent in 2013.

The median age of the citizen population also rose from 35.3 years in 2002 to 40 years in 2013.

The PR population has remained stable. The number of new PR statuses granted has held steady at about 30,000 a year over the past three years.

These are mainly in the "prime working ages" of between 25 and 49. New citizens are drawn from this pool of PRs.

Over the past five years, there have been some 20,000 new citizens each year.

The government plans to continue its "calibrated rate of immigration" of between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year to keep the citizen population from shrinking.

Professor David Chan, director of Singapore Management University’s Behavioural Sciences Institute, said: "It is important to bring in foreigners that are economically active, so that they can contribute to the country.

“But having said that, I think it is important that you bring in people, and some of them may become our PRs, and some of them may want to sink their roots here and become citizens. So you really want people who are not only economically active but who have the integration potential."

Authorities said immigration is needed to balance the effects of Singapore's aging and shrinking population.
The number of marriages involving at least one citizen has gone up -- but only slightly, by about 2 per cent.

The Total Fertility Rate has increased from 1.2 to 1.29, but that is still well below the replacement level of 2.1.

Dr Mathew Mathews, research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said: "I think a year ago, most people were looking at it as being a Dragon Year effect. But the fact is that we are seeing a shift (in fertility rate) across all races.

"It's not a major change, but it clearly is signalling… that there are good things to come and hopefully when more of the -- whether it's housing infrastructure or clearer articulation by the government in terms of assurances (that) Singaporeans will be taken care of... if they feel more confident they are being taken care of, then people will be more willing to embark into marriage and parenthood."

The government introduced an enhanced Marriage and Parenthood package in January this year to encourage couples to have more children.

Singapore’s population growth slowest in 9 years
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 27 Sep 13

SINGAPORE — The total population here grew over last year at its slowest pace since 2004, partly due to tightened foreign manpower policies and weaker economic conditions. A bright spot was the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) inching up to a five-year high, thanks to the “Dragon Year effect”.

As at end-June, Singapore’s total population stood at 5.4 million — a rise of 1.6 per cent over last year.

In comparison, the total population grew by 2.5 per cent between last year and 2011.

The citizen population grew by 0.9 per cent to 3.31 million — and continued to grow older, while growth in the non-resident population slowed, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) said in its annual Population in Brief report.

In particular, growth in foreign employment in the non-construction sector was halved to 25,000 workers last year, compared to 2011.

The TFR inched up to 1.29 last year, higher than 1.20 in 2011 but still way below the 2.1 replacement rate.

“More Singaporeans are getting married, and our birth rates have improved,” said the NPTD, which nevertheless noted that the TFR has been below replacement rate for more than three decades.

It added: “We need to continue our efforts to provide a supportive environment for Singaporeans to achieve their aspirations of getting married and having children.”

According to figures from the Department of Statistics, there were 531,200 permanent residents here as at end-June, falling slightly from 533,100 last year.

Over the same period, the non-resident population — made up of work pass holders, dependants and international students — grew from 1.49 million to 1.55 million.

About 30,000 PRs are granted each year since 2009, “to keep the PR population stable at between 0.5 million and 0.6 million and to ensure a pool of suitable candidates for citizenship”, said the NPTD.

It added that over the last five years, about 20,000 people were granted citizenship each year.

“We plan to continue this calibrated rate of immigration of between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year to keep our citizen population from shrinking,” NPTD said.

For the first time, the proportion of citizens and PRs aged 65 years and above crossed the 10 per cent mark among the resident population, rising from 9.9 per cent last year to 11 per cent this year.

The citizen old-age support ratio has shrank steadily over the years. Currently, for each citizen aged 65 and above, there are 5.5 citizens in the working age band of 20 to 64 years old.

Sociologists TODAY spoke to said the latest population figures were “not surprising”, given the Government’s concerted effort to moderate the influx of foreigners in recent years — in line with the desire of citizens who had expressed dissatisfaction over congestion on public transport and keen competition for jobs and housing.

Said National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan: “The slower growth … is carefully calibrated to ease the consequences of too many people on a small island, so we are seeing the effects right now.”

Following the controversy earlier this year over the population projection in the Population White Paper, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Faculty Associate Tan Ern Ser felt that policymakers need to come up with an optimal population size, as Singapore deals with the challenges of an ageing population.

“We would need to know what our growth model and engines are, and determine what our optimum population size and profile can be, corresponding to meeting the needs of the economy and still have a liveable environment,” he said.

Based on current trends, it would be “anyone’s guess” if the old-age support ratio can be improved in the years ahead, IPS Senior Research Fellow Leong Chan Hoong said.

Associate Professor Straughan said that a mindset shift could be required to redefine the concept of an economically active individual, instead of “looking at (the age of) post-65 as a total exit”.

She noted that people are living longer and healthier lives.

On improving birth rates, the sociologists felt that it was too early to say if the Government’s enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package — which was rolled out early this year — has been effective.

To create a more conducive environment, Assoc Prof Tan said that the Government should continue to enhance basic conditions such as work-life balance, support for parents, lower costs of living and job security. Assoc Prof Straughan suggested focusing national efforts on getting more singles to tie the knot.

“The trick is to encourage more women to get married, especially in the age group of 25 to 29, because if you get married earlier, it buys you more years of natural procreation,” she said.

Population growth slowest in 9 years
1.6% rise brings total to 5.4 million, as fewer foreign workers are hired
Tham Yuen-C And Tessa Wong Straits Times 27 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE'S population grew to 5.4 million in June this year, a 1.6 per cent annual increase that is the slowest in nine years.

At the same time, the pool of old folk continues to swell, with one in 10 now 65 and above, according to official figures released yesterday.

The main reason for the population slowdown is the slower pace of growth in the foreign workforce.

The bulk of the growth came from the construction sector, where foreigners are hired for key infrastructure projects such as housing and transport, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) said in a statement.

But in the non-construction sectors, growth slowed to about half that of a year ago, with 25,000 hired for the year ending in June this year, against 48,000 for the previous year.

The drop is a result of changes in official rules in recent years, which make it harder for companies to hire foreigners.

Yet more measures were announced earlier this week. These include a higher starting pay for foreign professionals, and companies having to advertise vacancies in a national jobs bank before they can apply to hire a foreigner on an Employment Pass.

As a result of the tightening of the tap, the non-resident population rose by just 4 per cent this year, compared to 7 per cent a year earlier. It reached 1.55 million in June, from 1.49 million a year ago.

Together with the resident population, it lifted Singapore's total population by 1.6 per cent, higher than the 1.3 per cent in 2004.

This new pace of growth still falls within the 1.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent range which the Government used in its controversial Population White Paper that forecast Singapore's population to top 6.9 million by 2030.

MP Liang Eng Hwa said that "at this pace, the growth is more sustainable".

But, he added, "we need to watch the demographic changes closely to see if the workforce will shrink significantly".

MP Inderjit Singh, a strong critic of the White Paper, found comfort in the figures.

"It shows the Government did listen to us when we suggested taking a pause to resolve issues like housing, transportation and hospital beds, before thinking about growing the population," said Mr Singh. "I think that is happening right now."

During the debate on the White Paper in Parliament, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other ministers made clear that the 6.9 million figure was not a target, but a projection for the purpose of infrastructure and land-use planning.

He emphasised that the Government was not deciding now on any specific population size beyond 2020.

He also promised to maintain a Singaporean core.

The number of citizens grew to 3.31 million in June this year, from 3.29 million a year ago. This rise of less than 1 per cent is a result of more babies being born and immigration, said the NPTD.

Birth rates have gone up, with the latest figures showing the total fertility rate climbing to 1.29 last year, from 1.20 in 2011.

Fast-ageing S'pore, fewer to support aged
Experts fear this will exert pressure on economy, society and governance
Tessa Wong Straits Times 27 Sep 13;

SINGAPOREANS are living longer and not having enough babies to replace themselves, meaning the swiftly ageing population has fewer working citizens supporting the growing pool of elderly.

These worrying trends, which emerged from the latest population figures released yesterday, can exert significant pressure on Singapore's economy, society and governance in future, said experts. They added that those working may have to toil longer and pay more taxes, and the Government will need to invest more in elder-friendly facilities.

These will be in demand by a growing number of Singaporeans, with those aged 65 and above forming 11.7 per cent of the citizen population this year, up from 7.8 per cent in 2002.

This year's Population in Brief report also showed that the old-age support ratio - which is the number of citizens in the working age band of 20 to 64 needed to support one older citizen - is decreasing rapidly.

It has fallen from 8.4 in 2000 to 5.5 today. But a better picture emerges when permanent residents are included, with the ratio at 6.4 this year, down from 8.7 in 2002.

According to World Bank data, Singapore has the highest proportion of older residents and the fastest ageing population in South-east Asia.

It is greying much faster than other developed nations such as Australia, the United States and most European countries, though the rate is on a par with Hong Kong's and slower than Japan's and South Korea's.

Economists and demographers say this will mean greater demand for health care and eldercare services, and elder-friendly infrastructure such as barrier-free accessibility features in transport and housing.

DBS economist Irvin Seah said that with the Government inevitably spending more, it will mean a "heavier financial burden on the working population, which in turn may mean higher taxes".

But Ms Selena Ling of OCBC said that the state may continue with its redistributive tax model, where the rich pay more through wealth and asset taxes.

"Singapore has been financially prudent, we can afford to draw down on our reserves as well," the economist added.

An ageing population will also require a slight "reorientation" of the economy, she said. This would involve a greater focus on developing medical services and attracting more workers to the sector, as well as increasing productivity and the use of technology in jobs so that people can continue to work as they age.

Still, some population statistics gave cause for cheer. More Singaporeans are getting married, with 23,192 marriages involving at least one citizen last year, up from 22,712 the year before.

Singapore residents are also continuing to have more babies. After hitting an all-time low of 1.15 in 2010, the total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.2 in 2011, and 1.29 in last year's Dragon Year - though it is still below the replacement rate of 2.1.

This upward trend was seen across all three major races, with the biggest increase among the Chinese.

But Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Yap Mui Teng warned that the reversal in the TFR's decline may be due to couples wanting to have a child in the auspicious Dragon Year.

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