Standing before a black-and-white picture of two children splashing gleefully through muddy floods, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about climate change and the upcoming threat of sea level rise in Singapore. The problems faced by the island nation were nothing new, he said. Monsoon flooding in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, had largely been solved. But now, a new threat was lurking in the distant, end-of-century future.

As a low-lying island in Southeast Asia, the country is at risk for some of the worst impacts foretold in report upon report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Temperatures are rising twice as fast in Singapore as in the rest of the world, and climbing sea levels threaten to flood up to a metre of the island by 2100.

“Everything else must bend at the knee to safeguard the existence of our island nation,” the prime minister declared during his National Day Rally speech, comparing the importance of climate defence to that of the Singapore Armed Forces. Among his plans to secure the island, Lee announced that the government would invest at least S$100 billion (US$73.6 billion) over 100 years to build coastal defenses, improve existing infrastructure, and increase research on effects and adaptation.

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Meerabelle Jesuthasan

Meerabelle Jesuthasan is a journalist and fact-checker from Singapore.