Adequacy of estimated $100 billion for coastal defences over next 100 years in view of rise in sea level from melting of Antarctica

Parliamentary Question, 6 April 2020

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) whether the estimate of $100 billion for coastal defences over the next 100 years is based on Singapore’s Second National Climate Change Study released in 2015 by the Meteorological Service Singapore, which did not take into account the melting of Antarctica; (b) how much more will sea levels rise for Singapore given that Antarctica is melting with the latest scientific evidence; and © how much more will it cost Singapore to adapt to the increase in sea level rise due to this melting of Antarctica.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli B M M: Being an island state, Singapore is vulnerable to sea level rise. Our coastal protection efforts could cost us S$100 billion over the next 50 to 100 years.

The S$100 billion cost estimate was based on BCA’s Coastal Adaptation Study (CAS) which was commissioned in 2013. The findings referenced the Fourth (AR4) and Fifth (AR5) Assessment Reports from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as Singapore’s Second National Climate Change Study published in 2015. These reports did not fully account for the ice-sheet melt in Greenland and the Antarctic as the science then was still nascent.

Over the past five years, scientific understanding of this issue has developed significantly and the IPCC released a Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) in September 2019. The SROCC found that: global warming has increased the rates of ice loss from ice-sheets and glaciers worldwide, and contributed to accelerated rise in global mean sea levels; global mean sea level is projected to rise by up to 1.1 metres in 2100 (about 0.1 metre higher than the AR5 projections); and historically rare extreme sea level events could occur at least once per year, especially in tropical regions.

Scientists from the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) have studied the SROCC findings closely and note that sea level rise in tropical areas could be up to 30% higher than the global average. As this is a complex topic, CCRS will be studying this in greater detail under the National Sea Level Research Programme (NSLP). The findings from the NSLP will provide important insights to help strengthen our defences against sea level rise. As part of the Third National Climate Change Study to be completed in 2022, CCRS will develop the new framework for future sea level projections for Singapore, making use of the upcoming Sixth Assessment Report’s (AR6) climate projections. This will ensure that CCRS’ sea level rise projections are robust and informed by the latest scientific knowledge.

PUB, who has been tasked as the national coastal protection agency, will focus on studying our coastal areas, beginning with City-East Coast and Jurong Island, to ascertain the type, feasibility, and extent of protection measures required, and derive detailed cost estimates. To provide for the substantial capital outlay, the Government will set up a Coastal and Flood Protection Fund within PUB, with an initial S$5 billion injection.

Other countries are looking at investments of similar or even greater magnitude to protect their coastlines. For example, reports have suggested that the US may need to spend more than US$400 billion between now and 2040 to defend its coastlines. The Netherlands currently commits around 1 billion Euros a year to address flood protection and water supply challenges.

Climate science is constantly evolving, and projections of sea level rise will continue to change. Our coastal protection plans will need to be flexible and dynamic to be able to accommodate both future needs and the latest science. The $100 billion is an estimate that could change as science advances. This is a long-term and large-scale effort that the Government will undertake to protect Singapore and Singaporeans.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

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A full-time human, and part-time everything else.