SINGAPORE: 2020 could go down in historical past because the 12 months of the coronavirus, however it’s additionally seen among the most tragic pure disasters.

In January, Jakarta was in a state of panic, as among the heaviest rains on file left 60 useless and an additional 170,000 individuals homeless.

Authorities had been resorting to the unreliable geoengineering strategy of cloud seeding to attempt to cease extra rain falling.

READ: Commentary: Jakarta, the fastest sinking city in the world faces the biggest flooding challenge

READ: As yearly floods loom, Jakarta residents fear shelters are potential COVID-19 ‘breeding grounds’

In the meantime in Australia, hundreds of individuals fled from cities susceptible to being engulfed by wildfires. It was the biggest peacetime evacuation within the nation’s historical past.

Report-breaking temperatures, prolonged drought and powerful winds converged to create tragic fireplace situations, which have triggered 445 deaths on account of smoke inhalation, the destruction of hundreds of properties and of thousands and thousands of acres – with almost three billion animals killed or displaced.

It was one of many worst fireplace seasons on file, with greater than 15,000 bushfires throughout each Australian state.

READ: Forget a ‘new normal’: Experts say Australia’s worst bushfires still lie ahead

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has additionally damaged data. It has surpassed 2005 as one with probably the most named storms on file: 29. That is simply the second time that the official alphabetical record of hurricane names has been used up, which means forecasters have needed to transfer to the supplementary record of Greek letter names.

Right here in Southeast Asia, Hurricane Vamco killed not less than 67 individuals within the Philippines in November, making it the nation’s deadliest storm of the 12 months.

Typhoon Vamco brought heavy flooding to suburban Manila on Thursday, with authorities warning of

Hurricane Vamco introduced heavy flooding to suburban Manila, with authorities warning of life-threatening storm surges. (File photograph: AFP/Ted Aljibe)

It then barrelled into Vietnam, the newest in a collection of storms which have ravaged the nation. At the least 192 individuals have died in Vietnam from pure disasters over the previous two months, with tons of of hundreds extra displaced.

The world’s 10 costliest climate disasters of 2020 additionally noticed insured damages price US$150 billion, topping the determine for 2019.


Local weather change, fuelled by greenhouse gasoline emissions from vitality use and industrial processes, has elevated international floor temperatures, producing extra droughts and elevated depth of storms.

As extra water vapour evaporates into the environment, it turns into gasoline for extra highly effective storms to develop. Rising sea ranges expose larger areas not normally at mercy to the ocean and its erosive forces of waves and currents.

Although these occasions are referred to as pure disasters, the toll they take is available in half from human actions. The build-up of communities in susceptible areas places extra individuals in hurt’s approach.

The warning indicators of local weather change has been clear during the last decade, with every new emergency topping its precedent.

READ: Commentary: Rising temperatures, fires and floods highlight importance of understanding weather extremes

READ: Commentary: We can no longer ignore the health risks of climate change in Asia


Whereas Singapore has been spared from catastrophe, the indicators are apparent right here too.

2019 was Singapore’s joint hottest 12 months (with 2016) on file, at about 1 diploma Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures of the 1880s. 2010 to 2019 was the most well liked decade ever.

That is according to international temperature patterns. 2019 was the Earth’s second-hottest 12 months on file. Worldwide temperatures had been solely 0.04 levels Celsius decrease than in 2016, the warmest 12 months on file.

hot weather dry grass Singapore

Dry climate has turned grass brown by a street in Singapore. (Picture: Chew Hui Min)

To the man-on-the-street, the rise in common temperatures may not sound like a lot, however its results are massive. Every little shift will increase the chance of utmost occasions, together with heatwaves on land and within the ocean, file rainfall and flooding, huge fires and heat-charged tropical cyclones.

Right here in Singapore, there’s a vital rising development in rainfall totals from the 1980s to the current day. From 1980 onwards, rainfall totals elevated at roughly 1cm per 12 months.

This 12 months’s June to September monsoon was the wettest season when it comes to most wet days within the final 18 years.

Rainfall occasions have additionally grow to be shorter in length and better in depth, resulting in better frequency of city flash floods. The flash floods attributable to intense storms in Singapore are indicators of the worsening impacts of local weather change.

READ: Commentary: Why that unusually high rainfall in Singapore during the last summer monsoon may be our new normal

READ: Commentary: How prepared is Singapore for the next flash flood?


These shifts within the total quantity of warmth saved within the oceans and environment can have enormous results on the planet, particularly, on glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets.

Throughout this final decade, Arctic sea ice reached its smallest space since file preserving started. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have additionally been dropping mass, with an acceleration of loss in simply the final decade.

Greenland went from dumping solely about 51 billion tonnes of ice into the ocean between 1980 and 1990, to dropping 286 billion tonnes between 2010 and 2018.

Ice loss results in rising seas. The speed of worldwide sea degree rise has been accelerating. Between 2010 and 2018, sea degree rise grew to over four mm per 12 months, rising nearly 5 cm total previously decade.

In 2019, international imply sea degree was the best within the satellite tv for pc file.

Climate change has forced a retreat of the polar ice cap

File photograph: Local weather change has compelled a retreat of the polar ice cap. (Picture: AFP/Clement Sabourin)

Sadly for us, what occurs within the Arctic doesn’t keep within the Arctic. As a low-lying island, the rise in sea degree poses probably the most fast risk to Singapore.

About 30 per cent of our island will probably be topic to flooding in many years, if we don’t reply to the existential risk of local weather change.

READ: Commentary: Save forests or build 4-rooms? It’s not a zero-sum game


The underlying power beneath the modifications is indeniable.

However there may be hope. Now we have a rising understanding of the causes of local weather change and their options.

Local weather researchers, similar to these on the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) at NTU, have been filling in gaps of their knowledge on previous and current climates. EOS is utilizing such knowledge to enhance fashions that predict the long run.

READ: Commentary: Singapore could be a model for cooler cities in a world heating up

The Nationwide Sea Degree Programme awarded S$2.7 million to EOS to review previous and current sea-level rise. Such funding goes in direction of strengthening local weather science capabilities in Singapore to sort out the potential impression of local weather change.

Attitudes internationally towards local weather change have shifted within the final decade. The place as soon as there was ignorance, inattention and disbelief about environmental issues, now there may be concern.

The latest groundswell of citizen motion is unprecedented, with thousands and thousands around the globe taking to the streets, partaking in local weather motion and demanding better motion from decision-makers.

climate change rally hong lim park 4

Vibrant indicators seen on the local weather change rally on the Audio system’ Nook in Singapore.

A 2019 survey of Singaporeans discovered that over 90 per cent of Singapore residents are conscious of local weather change and its impression. Near 80 per cent are ready to do extra to combat local weather change, and are prepared to bear additional prices or inconveniences to take action.


There was a political response to local weather change during the last decade too. In 2015, the Paris Local weather Settlement was signed by 195 international locations in an bold try to stop international temperatures rising 2 levels Celsius from pre-industrial ranges, and subsequently keep away from the worst local weather impacts.

China, EU, Japan, and South Korea – and now the US too, with Joe Biden’s election – have pledged to succeed in net-zero greenhouse gasoline emissions by mid-century. These international locations type two-thirds of the world financial system and account for over 50 per cent of worldwide emissions.

This places the Paris Settlement’s 2 levels Celsius restrict inside placing distance. We might forestall small island states from sinking, avert the disasters of utmost climate for thousands and thousands, and restrict the prospect of ice-free Arctic summers.

READ: Commentary: Joe Biden takes office in pivotal moment for climate action. Can he deliver?

READ: Commentary: Five years since Paris Agreement, world must get ambitious on climate action

Right here in Singapore, the federal government has pledged to stabilise emissions by round 2030.

Enterprise and trade have responded. The expansion of renewables has far exceeded expectations. The worth of photo voltaic vitality has dropped 81 per cent since 2009.

This has far-reaching implications for humanity’s transition from the age of hydrocarbons to the age of electrification. By 2017, nearly all of new power-generating capability added worldwide got here from renewables.

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows solar panels to produce renewable energy at the Urbasolar photovol

FILE PHOTO: A basic view reveals photo voltaic panels to supply renewable vitality on the Urbasolar photovoltaic park in Gardanne, France, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/File Picture

Within the reinsurance trade, AXIS stated in 2019 it will now not present insurance coverage or facultative reinsurance for brand spanking new thermal coal or tar sands extraction, nor for pipeline tasks and their devoted infrastructure.

Whereas these examples and others present exceptional progress within the final decade, our local weather system is exhibiting us we aren’t appearing shortly sufficient. We won’t cease local weather change as a result of it is already right here, however it’s not too late to reverse lots of its catastrophic results.

Policymakers, scientists, and the pondering public now have to seek out options – be they engineering, monetary, or institutional – to ensure we don’t get up someday and discover out it’s a lot too late to save lots of what we love and cherish.

Take heed to the writer break down how local weather change is destabilising oceans, and what meaning for us:

Professor Benjamin Horton is Director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore and a professor on the Asian Faculty of the Atmosphere in Nanyang Technological College.

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