Climate change and water

Climate change and water

One day in 2006 during my stint as a post-doctoral fellow in a North American university, a middle-aged man not associated with the university came up to me in the cafeteria to share his deep-rooted belief that climate change was a huge hoax. He was so adamant about it, that he decided to demonstrate. Throwing some ice cubes into a cup of water he said that this represented polar ice floating in the Antarctic Ocean and made a mark on the side of the cup for the water level. He said watch for yourself that even as the ice melts the water level in the cup will not increase above the line. Out of courtesy and with a coffee yet to be sipped, I waited with him for the ice to melt and noted the water level even though I was already familiar with this trick.

Unfortunately, climate change and the rising temperatures resulting in expansion of seawater and the melting of both ice in the sea as well as on land is very real and cannot be represented in a cup experiment! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently confirmed that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, at the opening of the World Cities Summit earlier in the week, highlighted how new challenges such as climate change have surfaced resulting in the first snowfall in Cairo and flooding in London. Closer home, the dry weather Singapore and Malaysia experienced earlier this year also suggest that climate change is truly upon us and would only result in more weather woes.

The story of climate change is one that is well-known, but action has been insufficient and inadequate.

Although climate change will affect all aspects of human life, its impact on one of our most precious resources - water - is alarming. Globally more than a billion people do not have access to clean drinking water presently, and climate change will likely result in further variability of water supply that can exacerbate water scarcity further. On the other extreme, non-uniform contrast in precipitation, storm surges and flooding are expected to affect many coastal cities.

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