Singapore is making early investments in the potential of climate science to help tackle environmental challenges. Infrastructure is at the forefront of those preparations. But better general awareness and greater ground-up participation in stemming the effects of climate change are needed to ensure the country is not engulfed by the sea. The idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Sea levels could rise almost 4m above the current mean levels and overwhelm low-lying coastal areas should high mean sea levels, high tide and a high surge all occur at the same time. Little would be left should a tropical storm occur at sea causing surge waters that cannot be kept out, while a heavy rainstorm takes place inland at the same time, bringing rainwater that cannot be drained.
While such a concurrence would be extremely rare, it is not inconceivable. According to the National Ocean Service of the United States, global sea levels have not only been rising over the past century, but the rate has also increased in recent decades. The implications are alarming. The higher sea levels mean that destructive storm surges push farther inland than they once did, which translates into more frequent nuisance flooding, which is both disruptive and expensive. Such flooding is estimated to be from 300 per cent to 900 per cent more frequent within US coastal communities than it was 50 years ago. Rising sea levels threaten vital infrastructure, extending over roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants and landfills, the agency adds ominously. The United Nations Atlas of the Oceans, which observes the global implications of such developments, notes that about two-thirds of the world’s population live within 60km of the coast, and that almost half the world’s cities with more than one million people are in and around estuaries.
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