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May 30, 2017

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Rise of temperature in Singapore due to many factors: URA

SINGAPORE -- Martha Stewart, the popular American lifestyle guru who visited Singapore recently, commented on the "cruel" heat.

Singaporeans who feel their country has become hotter over the years are not wrong.

According to figures from the National Environment Agency (NEA), the average temperature last year was 27.9 deg C, or about 1 deg C higher than the average temperature over the last 50 years.

The NEA said last year that it was difficult to determine how much of the upward trend was due to global warming and how much to Singapore's rapid development over the past 30 years, but it pointed out that the rise was consistent with higher global temperature levels.

A spokesman for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), one of the agencies working with the NEA, told The Straits Times that various factors can contribute to the increase in environmental temperature, many of which are beyond Singapore's control.

She added that to better prepare for the possible effects of climate change, the NEA commissioned a study to assess the long-term impact of climate change on Singapore up to 2100.

Associate Professor Matthias Roth, a climate scientist at the National University of Singapore's Department of Geography who specializes in urban climatology, said the increase of about 1 deg C in the past 50 years is almost twice that observed for the global average.

He said the increase is because of global warming and the fact that the surroundings of the temperature measuring station have experienced rapid urban and infrastructure development, especially during the last 40 years.

"The data do not represent the temperature that would be experienced if the station was located in an undeveloped, rural-like environment," he said.

Tey Peng Kee, director of Singapore District Cooling, a Singapore Power subsidiary, said it is not possible to "cool the country."

But adopting more energy-efficient practices would help lower the amount of fossil fuel burnt, and hence greenhouse gases and heat generated.

Roth added that as part of the local temperature increase is due to the rapid development of Singapore, the preservation of nature reserves and small parks, liberal use of water features as well as the adoption of building and construction practices that moderate the "urban heat island effect" — where a built-up, metropolitan area is significantly warmer than its surrounding area — can help cool the environment.

Indeed, as with the URA, many bodies are working with the NEA to keep Singapore's climate cool.

The Building and Construction Authority, for example, has introduced the Green Mark scheme. Since April 2008, all new buildings and existing buildings with a gross floor area above 2,000 sq m that are undergoing major retrofitting must meet Green Mark standards.

These include energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, and the adoption of sustainable or environment-friendly materials or practices.

The URA and the National Parks Board are also working closely to extend the green cover islandwide.

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