Climate change: Today’s reality versus tomorrow’s needs

Climate change is often pitched as a battle between today’s reality – such as the drive for economic growth – and the need to preserve the planet for future generations.

The recent online NUS U@live forum addressed this dilemma head-on. “What’s holding us back from finding common ground between future needs and today’s reality?” mused Mr Viswa Sadasivan, NUS Alumni Advisory Board (AAB) member and Chairman of the U@live Organising Committee, as he set the tone for the discussion on 30 Oct.

Joined by four panellists, Mr Sadasivan moderated an enriching dialogue that discussed climate change and sustainable development.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Ms Grace Fu shared that the main factors affecting climate change on a global scale ranged from differences in sustainable development across countries, economic priorities and political motivations, and different perspectives of data science.

Ms Fu affirmed that Singapore was actively promoting conversation in the sustainable development space both locally and regionally. She cited an upcoming plan to procure electricity, likely in the form of renewable energy, from Malaysia. “This agreement signifies a willingness to move beyond individual interests to work together,” she said.

On that note, Practice Manager for Urban and Disaster Risk Management at World Bank Group Mr Abhas Jha commended Singapore’s efforts in sustainable development, and elaborated that there is a common misconception surrounding the affordability of renewable energy. Mr Jha cited an International Monetary Fund report which revealed that fossil fuel subsidies amounted to USD 5.2 trillion, and represented 6.5 percent of global economic output.

NUS Dean of Students Associate Professor Leong Ching acknowledged that shifting human behaviour was key when it came to galvanising positive public action, for example in urban water management. Nonetheless, the saliency of climate change issues meant that this is an urgent challenge, said Assoc Prof Leong, who is also NUS Associate Provost (Special Projects).

Raffles Girls School student and U@live essay competition winner Ms Feng Yuan agreed that on an individual level, a mind-set shift is required to ensure that tackling climate change takes precedence in daily life.

One fact that the panellists all agreed on: Across the world, the climate change debate boils down to finding that critical balance between addressing today’s realities and tomorrow’s needs, while concurrently taking into account issues of parity, ethics and accountability to future generations.

Initiated by the NUS AAB and organised by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations, the U@live series of biannual forums was launched in 2011 to provide a thought leadership platform for eminent alumni and community leaders to delve into global issues and share their strategic perspectives.