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Climate Change: An Update to May 2010

May 17, 2010

Professor Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers, was recently in Singapore for a lecture entitled “Climate Change: An Update to May 2010”. I would first and foremost, like to take this opportunity to thank the people who made the event possible, and who helped to make it a success.

Professors Tim Flannery, Victor Savage and Mattias Roth having a chat before the lecture in the Dept of Geography's Map Resource Library

Professor Flannery delivering his lecture

Deliang was of course, the man behind the idea and most of the planning of the event. Given his busy schedule with his Masters (Environmental Management) and new job, I am really thankful that he still maintained calm and collected throughout the entire process of planning and getting in contact with the right people for this lecture. The planning of the day’s events and itinerary was clear cut and well thought through, from the airport pickup to NUS and to dinner at Bollywood Veggies. It was truly an enjoyable day, and one which showcased the best that Singapore and NUS had to offer in contribution towards the cause of Climate Change and action.

The team from NUS SAVE, in particular Calvin, Terence, Zhirong and Hongyi, were a great help and provided the much needed support throughout the planning process, from getting the poster out and making necessary arrangements for ushers and photography on the day.

Calvin and Deliang in the "NUS Fights Climate Change" T-shirt

NUS SAVE team and I, along with Professor Tim Flannery and Mr Dorjee Sun of Carbon Conservation

I wish to extend special thanks to Professor Victor Savage (who chaired the lecture) and who went out on a limb really, to make the lecture happen and to ensure that all the details necessary were taken care of. In addition, the team from the NUS Department of Geography, namely: Ms Cynthia, Mrs Wong Lai Wa (who thought of the banana leaf idea when we told her we didn’t want to use disposables at the reception), Mr Tow, Madam Sakinah and Professor Lim Han She. These are the people behind the scenes, making sure that every single detail was in place and who ensured the comfortable and smooth flow of things on Saturday. Deliang and myself owe you all much gratitude and thanks.

Aidan and Spike (Geog Honours classmates) made to pose with their banana leaf plates 🙂


This post, in contrast to other posts about lectures, will not attempt to summarize Professor Tim Flannery’s lecture. Rather, it hopes to extend the message to those who support the cause, that there is avenue for change that will come from everyday people such as the people who helped to make the lecture happened. It all started when Deliang and I met Professor Flannery in Copenhagen, at a panel that The Bellona Foundation had organized.

The Bellona Foundation's Panel of speakers at COP15

Deliang and I with Professor Flannery

This may well be the start of something. The entire process of helping to coordinate and execute this one lecture left me hopeful that if you really set your mind to something, no matter how small or insignificant you might be (or think you might be), you can achieve it. Of course in this case, I had some help and affiliation with the Department of Geography perhaps did help and we were truly lucky that Professor Savage is familiar with Professor Flannery’s work (and in fact was the one that introduced both Deliang and myself to his book The Weather Makers!!!) and was so committed to making the event a success.

The lecture touched on several important milestones in the history of Climate Change and action, the most important being COP15 and at which, Professor Flannery chaired (and still chairs) the Copenhagen Climate Council. He stressed the urgent need to recognize that political will is integral to making change happen and I think that it was apt especially in Singapore. Our government has done a lot to ensure sustainable growth and made plans for our future (in consideration of climate change’s effects) as evident in the Sustainability Blueprint and National Climate Change Strategy and the set up of the Inter-Ministeral Committee on Climate Change in 2007.  But is this enough?

Professor Flannery was deeply concerned with the strong developmentalist position that Singapore continues to take in it’s economic strategy and growth trajectory, especially with Singapore’s contribution to carbon emissions through its petrochemical industry, of which he asked about over dinner and was also keen to look more into. I would think that the “playing down” of Singapore’s Jurong Island, maritime and aviation contributions to carbon emissions have had significant impact on how Singaporeans view Climate Change and the actions that follow. The government may recognize the urgency of the situation, seeing that sea level rise will (not potentially but WILL) be of tremendous threat to everyone, but has chosen perhaps not to cause alarm amongst the public. This isn’t just a matter of national security but a moral issue. The longer it takes for us to realise that living sustainably is key to our survival, the more time we waste. Sure there is a part of me that remains a skeptic but that I believe is a necessary evil. Being skeptical helps one to see things in perspective and not be too naive about the massive amount of information about climate change and environmental degradation happening around us and which helps us to effectively make our choices about the causes we support, and those that we don’t.

If this lecture and the process of its planning taught me one thing, is that life is too short to not live and to not believe that we ourselves can create change. At dinner, we learnt that Professor Flannery studied History at University. Look where he is today! One of the most influential climate scientists around and one who is so passionate about helping to change the way people think and act. If we start today, who knows? So dream big and join the cause.

I will definitely try to get a copy of the video up and running on YouTube ASAP, once I get help with cutting it shorter and into parts to upload. In the meantime, to all my fellow greenies, stay true to the cause and act TODAY!


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