How technology can help us cope with global warming and climate change

·Contributor
·6 min read
Singapore. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Singapore. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

With the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stating that climate change is widespread, rapidly increasing and intensifying, it has become even more obvious that we need to become more serious about how we think about the environment. But sometimes, it seems like nothing is changing, that nothing is being done to stop the runaway train of global warming and all the environmental ills it is causing.

Don’t give up hope yet. Some major changes are underway that should help alleviate or repair the situation, says Thomas Baudlot, CEO of Engie South East Asia.

“The world is now paying close attention to the issue of climate change and its impact on the environment, particularly after the recent G7 Summit where the G7 nations agreed to step up action on climate change and renewed a pledge to raise US$100 billion a year to help poor countries cut emissions,” points out Mr Baudlot.

“I think this is definitely in the right direction to get the ball rolling. Since the Paris Climate Agreement, various Southeast Asian nations have established their sustainability roadmaps and targets as part of a concerted effort to combat global climate issues and challenges.

“The setting up and measuring of goals will allow us to see what progress we are making in our fight for climate change. It is encouraging to see the region taking this seriously. ASEAN, for example, has set an ambitious target of securing 23 per cent of its primary energy from renewable sources by 2025.”

It might be slightly ironic, but Mr Baudlot also points out that various pandemic recovery stimulus plans are helping to move investment and development towards more environmentally sustainable solutions like cutting carbon emissions. “Solutions like district cooling systems and solar energy production are already able to slash CO2 emissions and come at a cost advantage. I believe that ‘playmaking net-zero partnerships’ will bolster deployment of these solutions at scale and fast-track the green initiatives of tomorrow,” says Mr Baudlot.

The need for air conditioning is expected to double between 2020 and 2030. If we continue to have a legacy approach, the stress on energy systems will not be manageable

Singapore's city view from Henderson wave bridge. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Singapore's city view from Henderson wave bridge. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

The three challenges of global warming and climate change

The just-released IPCC report states “that within a decade, global warming could push temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”, calling it a ‘code red for humanity’. All this points to the fact that we now need to be more aware of the three major challenges needed to be solved for Southeast Asian cities to survive the impacts of global warming and climate change.

“The first challenge is cooling. The need for air conditioning is expected to double between 2020 and 2030. If we continue to have a legacy approach, the stress on energy systems will not be manageable, and the island effect will trigger a steep increase in outdoor temperatures,” explains Mr Baudlot. “In a tropical climate, an increase in outdoor temperature would translate into an increase in the mortality rate.”

Mr Baudlot points out that strong infrastructure systems like the District Cooling Systems (DCS) are available, which help produce air conditioning in a centralised plant and distribute it to a neighbourhood. “This helps considerably to reduce the use of energy to cool our cities - by up to 40 per cent - and fight the island effect,” says Mr Baudlot.

The challenge for Singapore is its rapid urbanisation and lack of land

“The second challenge is the rise in the consumption of energy. Fortunately, in our region, we are blessed with abundant sun, and solar power is already the cheapest source of power. We need to engage in the systemic deployment of solutions across our cities. Also, we should focus on energy efficiency. Cheap technologies are available to reduce the energy use in our buildings by leveraging on data and automation systems – for example, to adjust the cooling depending on the number of people in a building or to turn off the lights in a building when the premises are empty.”

“The third challenge relates to the increased flow of people and traffic. We need to move towards more shared infrastructure. The deployment of electric vehicles will help.”

Mr Baudlot’s company Engie has partnered with ComfortDelGro to jointly bid for a tender to install and operate electric vehicle charging points at public car parks.

HDBs at Rochor Centre. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
HDBs at Rochor Centre. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

It’s already hot on the equator

Singapore’s location right on the equator obviously impacts how the country will be affected by increased temperatures and rising sea levels. However, according to Mr Baudlot, Singapore is relatively well placed to deal with global warming and climate change issues.

“The announcement of the Singapore Green plan has showcased that climate change is a critical part of the government’s national agenda,” explains Mr Baudlot. “Investment in innovations that are more energy-efficient and less destructive to the environment has to be decided upon at the start of any project, during the design stage. This is something Singapore is doing very well.”

Mr Baudlot says that Singapore is also on target with increasing the use of renewable energy like adding solar panels to the rooves of HDB buildings and plans for a large solar farm on Pulau Semakau.

Still, it’s not all rosy; Singapore does have a number of issues to overcome in its journey to a more sustainable future. “The challenge for Singapore is its rapid urbanisation and lack of land. With rapid urbanisation and the rise of a digital and green economy, there is a need to move towards developing smart city features and building smart business districts to help create a city that can optimise land use to integrate businesses, schools and the community,” explains Mr Baudlot.

Zero waste products. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Zero waste products. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

It’s not all doom and gloom

While it often feels overwhelming to think about all the problems we need to deal with due to global warming, climate change, environmental degradation, etc., we shouldn’t lose all hope.

“We already have all we need to engage in the race against climate change fully – we just have to find the right approach to deploying those solutions at scale,” says Mr Baudlot.

As a consumer, we all have the ability to vote with our dollars and buy only planet-friendly products. “As ‘green inside products become more available, we all have a role to play to favour them against less sustainable ones.”

So don’t let the negativity overcome your thoughts and actions, as Mr Baudlot points out: “Climate change is certainly a threat, but we live in an era where we have the opportunity to change our ways, to be an actor of change and to build a better world for future generations. This journey is both necessary and at the same time really exciting.”

For more information on the various programmes Engie is involved in, go to www.engie-sea.com.

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