Climate change an urgent problem, says PM Lee at United Nations General Assembly

Singapore's coolest months now hotter than its warmest months just four decades ago.

Belmont Lay | September 29, 2019, 02:41 AM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the urgency of dealing with climate change during his inaugural address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, Sep. 27

He pointed out that the impact of climate change has seen Singapore's coolest months now hotter than its warmest months just four decades ago.

PM Lee said: “It is not just that everybody will need air conditioning, but that there are implications for diseases, for water sustainability, for food, for drought."

"These are all very major consequences where the whole ecosystem is drastically changed and all the adaptations (to climate change) which human beings have made are upended.”

Climate change a worry

PM Lee spoke to the Singapore media in New York after his speech at the UNGA.

He provided a worrying outlook of the future if environmental problems were not addressed, as he cited a report from the Centre for Climate Research Singapore.

He said the climate change issue is “very much something in young people’s minds” and the government is on their side, noting that climate action demonstrations have occurred around the world over the past week.

And time is of the essence.

Still time to change

PM Lee highlighted that human society still has time to adapt if temperatures or the sea-level rise over 300 to 500 years. 

He said: “But if it happens within one lifetime, affecting seven to eight billion people (around the world), it is not so easy. And therefore we have to work.”

Singapore is also contributing to the global community by working and training with organisations from other countries and conducting environmental research and allowing the use of science facilities.

Role of United States

PM Lee said it was a pity that the United States decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a deal that came into effect in 2016.

The U.S. pulled out of the agreement in 2017 after President Donald Trump got elected.

The common goal of the agreement was for nations to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the U.S. is still partially in the pact.

Half of the states in the U.S. have banded together in the United States Climate Alliance to continue the work laid out by the Paris Agreement. 

And this effort is not insignificant, PM Lee said.

“There are other strands of opinion in America, and if we look at the states within the United States, quite many of them have aggressive climate plans on emissions reduction, as well as some adaptation. And I think they will have some influence on the world,” he said.

“It's not as effective as the US wholeheartedly participating, but it's not insignificant.”

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