It’s getting hot in here
MAY 14 — It is hot in Singapore.
The temperature last week hit 37 degrees Celsius in some parts of the island. Over the course of the last month, temperatures have regularly exceeded 33 degrees.
And given our humidity, it feels even hotter. Weather reports helpfully point out that at 33 degrees Singapore feels more like less humid nations at 42 degrees Celsius.
It often feels like I am about to turn into a puddle given how much I find myself sweating.
It is worth remembering that temperature measurements are taken in the shade, so the temperature in the sun is hotter still.
Now beyond inconvenience, the reality is that these temperatures are rather dangerous. Heat stroke and dehydration can be debilitating and in vulnerable groups like the elderly, sustained hot weather can even increase death rates.
Outside of humans, extreme heat also impacts plants and animals — I’ve had to move plants from my HDB corridor to a shadier place because they were wilting.
At 37 degrees, Singapore is reaching near record highs. May is usually a warm month but such sustained high temperatures are unusual.
This sustained severe heat is very likely a product of global warming.
Singapore has never been a chilly place, but as higher temperatures become more common we do have to start thinking about how we cope.
And the answer for most of us is to turn up the AC — I know I am guilty of this.
Obviously this actually increases electricity consumption and as the bulk of our energy comes from fossil fuels — well, it only makes global warming worse.
Also, AC units themselves spew more heat into the environment — so by cooling ourselves, we are actually creating more heat for the planet.
The real answer to surviving and mitigating present and future heat waves lies in addressing behaviour.
We need to consume less energy and try to be more conscious of how much greenhouse gasses we are producing — as individuals and also as a society.
Of course, Singapore is a single country, and in the context of global warming, there are limits to what we alone can achieve.
But we are a prosperous, exceptionally well-organised country. We can implement change more easily than most nations and then work with others to follow our example — basically it’s time for us to lead.
If we want to combat warming and broader challenges to the environment, we need to make fundamental changes.
But most of us, including myself, are still flying and driving as much as ever. There are no real incentives to make us change our behaviour.
Some people go out of their way to reduce their carbon footprint by avoiding flights, using their bicycles as much as possible and even looking at the amount of emissions produced by their food but for most of us — this just isn’t viable.
The truth is, combating this issue needs to involve all of society and not just individual changes. The government, businesses, and individuals need to act and also accept that our lives will change.
We need to normalise low-carbon lifestyles. This means fewer flights, no plastic, more walking and far less imported food.
It may not initially seem like fun but we can cope, adapt and create new ways of life that offer different values; previous generations managed and so can we.
The problem is until society as a whole decides that the climate is worth some element of sacrifice we won’t see change.
But if we don’t see change it seems likely temperatures will keep going up. I was recently in Bangkok and there it was a near record breaking 40 degrees Celsius and with stifling humidity, the real feel was apparently near 50 degrees.
At that point, it becomes genuinely hard to live in a place. How much longer before we face that here?
It really is time to take more drastic action.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.