SINGAPORE — Singaporeans’ lukewarm attitude to the urgent threat of climate change has persisted for the second year running, an annual survey has found, reflecting a “worrying” trend shared by many countries in Southeast Asia grappling with inflation. The Southeast Asia Climate Outlook Survey Report 2023, published on Thursday (Sept 21) by the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, showed that the proportion of Singaporeans who believe climate change “is a serious and immediate threat” to the well-being of the country stood at 43.7 per cent this year.
Past editions of the report showed that this figure dropped substantially from 66.4 per cent in 2021 to 40.5 per cent in 2022, before rising slightly this year.
Data collected from respondents of other Southeast Asian countries largely reflected a similar trend — the average for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) dropped from 68.8 per cent to 46.6 per cent from 2021 to 2022, before a seeing slight increase to 49.4 per cent this year.
Iseas’ researchers said in this year’s report that the dip in climate threat urgency, compared to 2021, might be tied to the region’s economic concerns such as rising inflationary pressures, job losses and increasing energy and food prices.
The researchers noted that a larger proportion of Singaporeans (47.7 per cent) did respond that climate change is an “important issue that deserves to be monitored”. However, this pointed to a belief that the issue of climate change is “not critical yet” and is “not a top-of-mind issue”, they added.
3. S’PORE CLIMATE ADVOCACY BELOW REGIONAL COUNTERPARTS
On average, only 5.9 per cent of respondents from Asean do not take part in or follow climate change issues, but that figure is 16.1 per cent for SingaporeSimilarly, three in four (75.2 per cent) of respondents from Asean follow news and share information about climate change, but only 57.7 per cent of Singaporeans doIn terms of leading projects and mobilising support on climate change awareness, only 7.9 per cent of Singaporeans do so, compared to the Asean average of 11 per centFewer also sign petitions related to climate change (17.6 per cent) and attend protests (3.2 per cent) compared to Asean’s average of 18.2 per cent and 4.3 per cent respectivelyHowever, more Singaporeans on average believe climate change would “greatly” affect their lives in a negative way (46.6 per cent) than the Asean average (41.3 per cent)
‘RACE AGAINST TIME’
Since the first edition of the survey in 2020, its researchers noted that climate ambition has grown in the region, with all Asean countries having communicated their updated climate targets in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or climate pledges.
“But Southeast Asia can scarcely wait for climate policy and cooperation to inch forward as this survey’s results reveal the public’s pragmatic concerns about climate threats as experienced,” they added.
The United Nations Development Programme defined NDCs as countries’ self-defined climate pledges under the legally binding Paris Agreement — detailing what they will do to help meet the goal of limiting the global average temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a report in 2021 that an extreme heat event that occurred once every decade in a climate without human influence now likely occurs 2.8 times every decade.
It would occur 5.6 times if the global average temperature rose to 2°C — but that figure would be at 4.1 times a decade at 1.5°C of warming.
Commenting on the survey in a press release, Iseas-Yusof Ishak’s director Choi Shing Kwok said that the survey has helped researchers understand better the public attitudes and perceptions of climate issues “in the context of the unique circumstances we face in this part of the world”.
“These findings serve as a motivation and guide for policymakers and other stakeholders in Southeast Asia as we all race against time to achieve the global climate goals.”