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Lim Boon Heng breaks it down for us: Climate change is about everyone and everyday lives

TL;DR – There are still people who do not believe humans are causing climate change. In fact, it affects near everything.

A friend forwarded an email from Lim Boon Heng to me today. Yes, that Lim Boon Heng, you know, chairperson at Temasek Holdings and chairperson at NTUC Enterprise also.

In the email, Mr Lim was sharing his thoughts after reading an article on climate change, Crisis in the Himalayas: Climate Change and Unsustainable Development.

Climate change is actually closer to home than you think, and its impact on our lives, our homes, our work and even our finances(!) is actually deeper than you imagine.

Mr Lim had practically touched on all of these in the email, and in such simple language too. So yea, I asked for permission to share, and he replied with “Sure!” in a heartbeat!

Here we go!


 

The Straits Times today reprinted a Financial Times article “Crisis in the Himalayas: climate change and unsustainable development “

There are still people who do not believe humans are causing climate change. After all, were there not changes in the past, when the Earth shifted from being very hot to ice ages? Isn’t it caused by the trajectory of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, when it is further or closer to it?

Scientists have tested the air trapped in glaciers, to find out age, and the amount of carbon dioxide. Indeed, they plotted a chart that showed the variations in percentage of carbon dioxide in the air over the last 800,000 years. But in recent years, the percentage has spiked well beyond past peaks. So now it is not just the Earth’s trajectory around the sun.

The result is that glaciers are melting. Sea levels rise. Already in many low lying areas, tidal floods have become common. Example: coastal cities in Indonesia. This problem is compounded by the population drawing water from the ground, and the land sinks.

For Singapore, if the world does not collectively address climate change successfully, the main island will become many islands. We are not waiting for the world to act, or believe the world will succeed. So we are building dykes – $100b. Otherwise some of us will find our homes in the water. Much of the city centre will be under water. What does that do to real estate values?

The article I highlighted – about the Himalayas – shows risks to those living not near the sea, but along mighty rivers as well.

As the world shifts to using green energy, one would think that hydropower is green. But the collapse of the dam shows that such power plants are at risk also.

If you work in the insurance and reinsurance industry, you should beware that these companies may not be adequately funded to pay out. And it is not just collapsed dams, but also the damage from extreme weather – tornados, typhoons and floods (like in Australia now).

Every industry has to examine the risks from climate change. E.g. food. How will food supply be affected by climate change? It is not just change in weather. Bees are dying. Without bees, many crops will not yield the harvests we need.

So unionists too, need to understand climate risks, because livelihoods will be impacted.

For businesses, those that change and adapt fastest are the ones likely to survive.

You will read or hear that some companies have declared their targets to reach zero carbon emissions. These are the early ones.

It does not necessarily mean that their activities will not emit carbon. If a company operates data centres, it consumes a huge amount of energy. Where does the energy come from? From coal? From oil? Such a company may buy energy from renewable sources. Recently you may have read that Amazon Singapore has signed a contract with Sunseap to buy its solar powered energy from the grid. By doing so, Amazon reduces its carbon footprint, by being early, it will probably enjoy lower cost than latecomers.

Other companies are buying ‘carbon offsets’. For example, they buy land for reforestation. Or they buy swamps for planting mangrove. Indonesia has big potential for selling such swamps.

So there is business to be done in carbon trading, new jobs to be created.

Transport emits a lot of carbon.

Initially shipping lines said it was impossible to be carbon neutral. Now Maersk Line announced it will have the first container ship of this kind by 2023.

Airlines also thought it would not be possible. Now they are looking at solutions like biofuels, electric airplanes, or hydrogen powered airplanes. The jury is still out on which will be commercially viable. If you are in the aviation sector, how will these developments affect your jobs?

Another word about data centres. With IoT, 5G, 6G – more data centres are needed. Companies want to locate data centres in trusted locations. Singapore is one such place. But how do we do so, and yet meet our carbon obligations? We can buy offsets. Or study it like we studied water, to find solutions. There are jobs in operating data centres.

Recently government announced the phasing out of internal combustion engines for cars, buses and trucks. The switch is to electric vehicles. People like Elon Musk has, by hype, made EVs popular. However, Japanese car manufacturers are betting on hydrogen powered cars. The South Koreans too. Will the cost of hydrogen come down to be able to compete? Which will win? How may this affect jobs?

Finally, the carbon tax. Now it is imposed on certain companies only, at $5 per metric ton. The price is too low. It will go up. It has to go up. Canada has imposed a carbon tax of C$130 per ton. We must expect the tax to be imposed on all. Are we getting ready for it?


 

The Crisis in the Himalayas article was first published in the Financial Times two days ago, and our very own Straits Times also carried this article today, for for subscribers only.

You can access the full article here.

 

Mr Lim Boon Heng has an illustrious career, and has spent over three decades in public office . He entered politics back in 1980, and entered the Cabinet when he became a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in 1993. He had a long career with the labour movement. He spent 26 years at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), with the last 13 as its Secretary-General.

Mr Lim is currently chairman of Temasek Holdings, and also chairman of NTUC Enterprise Co-operative.

(Featured image via)

 

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Qiqi Wong

Author Qiqi Wong

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