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Rising sea levels a burden for different generations

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Minister of State for Foreign Affairs says future generations have to bear share of responsibility for climate change effects

Rising sea levels threaten Singapore's survival directly, and mitigating the effects is a burden that future generations of Singaporeans have to shoulder, said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sam Tan.

"Climate change concerns the well-being of future generations. I think it is only fair that they would have to shoulder their share of the responsibility because it cuts across so many decades".

Mr Tan was speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway, where he attended one of the plenary sessions as a panellist.

"It is not sufficient for one generation to raise the funds," he said. "Our generation also has our own priorities and important infrastructure that we want to put in place to make sure we are able to grow the economy and create enough jobs."

Borrowed spending was identified last year as a possible source the Government would tap to fund infrastructural projects that are essential in the light of climate change, such as sea walls.

During the plenary session themed Sustainable Arctic Ocean on Tuesday, Mr Tan highlighted that developments in the Arctic could affect Singapore.

The melting of sea ice in the region leads to more heat being absorbed by the oceans, since sea ice serves to reflect sunlight. As the ocean warms and expands, it also results in rising sea levels.


Mr Tan told an audience made up of academics, businessmen and policymakers: "We have 5.7 million people living on this tiny island, and we have literally built our city to the brink of the land... With climate change, a melting Arctic and rising sea levels, Singapore is also in trouble.

"If this happens, our future prime minister will have to conduct Cabinet meetings in a scuba diver's suit, for we will be submerged underwater."

The Republic is expected to spend an estimated $100 billion to mitigate the effects of climate change. Already, the island state has been gearing up for the changes to come by, for example, constructing new buildings higher and raising roads.

One-third of Singapore - including the country's central business district - is low-lying, or less than 5m above sea level.

Mr Tan said: "We will raise our peripheral and low-lying areas by more than 1m by 2100. We have decided to set aside more than $100 billion to deal with the rising sea level. New developments will be built 4m above sea level, and critical infrastructure will be elevated 5m above sea level."

Mr Audun Halvorsen, State Secretary to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told ST that countries in the tropics like Singapore can affect the Arctic and vice versa.

He said: "The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. The Arctic sea ice is retreating faster than ever, and the polar glaciers and ice caps are shrinking.

"But this development is mainly caused by factors outside of the Arctic, for example, emission from factories, cars and other pollutants. We therefore need to find global solutions to this problem."