Best of our wild blogs: 2 Aug 13

The Plushy, Squishy Velvet Worm
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Aberrant Oakblue
from Butterflies of Singapore

Malaysian NGOs form alliance to address palm oil concerns
from news by Rhett Butler

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Singapore government study on climate and output

Project to look into effects of climate change on manufacturing industry
Grace Chua Straits Times 2 Aug 13;

HOW will the earth's changing climate - and the policies that countries take up to address it - affect the competitiveness of Singapore's manufacturing industry?

That's what the National Climate Change Secretariat and the Ministry of Trade and Industry want to know.

The secretariat is looking for consultants to study the direct or indirect implications of climate change on manufacturing costs and market share, and how companies might respond to the challenges and opportunities that the phenomenon presents, it said in a government tender that opened last month.

Once a contract is awarded, the study is to be completed by early January next year.

Singapore's manufacturing industry contributes about a fifth of the country's gross domestic product. Major sectors here include electronics, precision engineering, chemicals, biomedical manufacturing, transport engineering, food manufacturing, and printing.

As a developing country by United Nations standards, the Republic is not yet subject to cuts on its absolute carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to man-made climate change. But this may change after UN climate negotiations in coming years.

If Singapore chooses ambitious carbon-emissions targets, it is likely to achieve them largely through energy efficiency, as it does not have much in the way of renewable energy like geothermal or wind, according to Ms Cecilia Springer of US-based climate and energy consultants Climate Advisers.

The Government is considering different ways to lower the nation's carbon emissions, such as carbon pricing, which would have implications for competitiveness.

Dr Tilak Doshi, chief economist of the National University of Singapore's Energy Studies Institute, noted that oil refining and petrochemicals account for a large part of GDP and compete globally.

If Singapore were to tax carbon dioxide emissions, which cause climate change, or put a price on carbon via a cap-and-trade scheme, this sub-sector could lose out to other countries that do not do likewise.

But if there was a regional cap-and-trade programme, he said, Singapore could meet targets by buying credits from other countries.

Climate change will also affect the availability of water and how effectively heat from industrial processes can be dispersed, said Professor Michael Quah, director of the NUS Energy Office.

On the other hand, policies here and elsewhere to cut energy use could also lead to an increased demand for energy-efficient building or cooling technologies, from which the electronics sector here could benefit, Ms Springer said.

The costs and benefits of climate change will not be evenly distributed. For instance, sea level rise could reshape or drown coastlines, while melting sea ice could open up new shipping routes that bypass existing ones.

Singapore is not the only country or state to study the economic impacts of climate change, Ms Springer pointed out.

The US state of Massachusetts looked at what a carbon tax would do to its industries, concluding that it would affect chemicals and utilities most but spare many other sectors.

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NEA plan seeks to limit damage from landfill expansion

It wants contractor to monitor works' impact on nearby marine life
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 2 Aug 13;

SINGAPORE will embark on a project by the end of the year to make sure that the expansion of its offshore landfill site does not damage nearby marine life.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) plans to start work on phase two of the Semakau Landfill between next January and March and complete it by early 2015.

This will allow Singapore to meet projected waste disposal needs up to 2035 or beyond. The current site at Pulau Semakau, an island south of Singapore, is expected to be filled by 2016.

The space set aside for the expansion is a lagoon with a small gap in its perimeter. This gap will be plugged with sand to turn the lagoon into a landfill.

The NEA wants a contractor to come up with a plan to monitor and limit the works' impact to nearby marine life, according to a tender document it put up on government website GeBiz.

The project is expected to start in October and will include keeping an eye on water temperature and salinity changes, sediments spread by the works and chemicals in the water. It will also recommend limits for the changes. Of particular concern are the coral reefs, mangrove and seagrass patches and aquaculture farms off Pulau Semakau and nearby islands.

These include Sentosa, Pulau Jong, Pulau Sebarok, Pulau Bukom, and Lazarus, Kusu, St John's and Sisters' islands, the NEA said.

The contractor will study the areas for three months before construction starts to establish their conditions. It will monitor them during the works and for three months afterwards - up to May 2015 - in case of any delayed damage. The data will be used in an environmental report of the works' impact.

For transparency, result summaries from the monitoring will be posted on a public website, although some data more suitable for, say, scientists may require user identification.

Every six months, a few qualified marine biologists from non-government groups will be allowed to join the coral reef habitat surveys. "This shall ensure there is no cause to question the reliability of the... data," said the NEA.

The Singapore Nature Society's marine conservation group committee member Leong Kwok Peng lauded the proposed project. "However, the actual monitoring and control of the 'spill budget' - sediment washed into the sea from the construction - will be most critical," he said.

Others expressed concern that some islands near the works such as Pulau Sudong, Pulau Senang and Pulau Pawai were not included in the document.

These islands have rich, offshore biodiversity and should be protected, they said, but added that an external contractor may not be suitable as the islands have been used by the Ministry of Defence as training grounds.

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Caribbean has lost 80% of its coral reef cover in recent years

Comprehensive survey of the Caribbean's reefs is expected to act as a warning of problems besetting the world's coral
Fiona Harvey 1 Aug 13;

A major survey of the coral reefs of the Caribbean is expected to reveal the extent to which one of the world's biggest and most important reserves of coral has been degraded by climate change, pollution, overfishing and degradation.

The Catlin scientific survey will undertake the most comprehensive survey yet of the state of the region's reefs, starting in Belize and moving on to Mexico, Anguilla, Barbuda, St Lucia, Turks & Caicos, Florida and Bermuda.

The Catlin scientists said the state of the regions' reefs would act as an early warning of problems besetting all of the world's coral. As much as 80% of Caribbean coral is reckoned to have been lost in recent years, but the survey should give a more accurate picture of where the losses have had most effect and on the causes.

Loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the Caribbean, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Coral reefs provide a vital home for marine creatures, acting as a nursery for fish and a food resource for higher food chain predators such as sharks and whales.

Stephen Catlin, chief executive of the Catlin Group, said: "It is not only important that scientists have access to this valuable data, but companies such as ours must understand the impact that significant changes to our environment will have on local economies."

Globally, coral reefs are under threat. The future of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is in doubt as mining and energy companies want to forge a shipping lane through it to form a more direct link with their export markets.

Warming seas owing to climate change can lead to coral being "bleached" – a state where the tiny polyps that build the reefs die off. The US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts increasing frequency and severity of mass bleaching events as global warming takes effect.

Richard Vevers, director of the project, told the Guardian that one important role of the new survey would be to describe a new "baseline" to establish how far such problems have taken their toll to date, which will enable future scientists to judge how degradation – or conservation – progresses.

He said the team of scientists would also probe the underlying reasons for such degradation, with a view to informing conservation efforts.

The team will use satellite data as well as direct observations to assess the reefs. As part of the survey, they will develop software that marine scientists can apply to other reefs around the world. A new camera has been constructed to assist their efforts.

Vevers said: "The Caribbean was chosen to launch the global mission because it is at the frontline of risk. Over the last 50 years 80% of the corals have been lost due mainly coastal development and pollution. They now are also threatened by invasive species, global warming and the early effects of ocean acidification — it's the perfect storm."

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