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  Straits Times 26 Sep 07
MM Lee finds climate change a 'woeful' topic
Governments still lack the will to stop environmental degradation, he says
By Lynn Lee

Today Online 26 Sep 07
Melting ice cap chills MM
Nazry Bahrawi

HE WILL be sad if the polar bears vanish from the North Pole, but sadder still should the ice cap melt at the South Pole.

These dire consequences of global warming featured prominently in Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's inaugural Singapore Maritime Lecture at the Fullerton Hotel yesterday.

"When the polar bear disappears from the Arctic, I will be sad when I see them at the zoo. But I will be sadder when the Antarctic ice cap melts because the water level will rise so much," he said.

The calamity confronting humanity has no easy solutions nor are governments doing enough to tackle this problem, said Mr Lee.

"I am not optimistic about the will of governments to attack this cause," he told some 300 top maritime executives, in response to a question about how Singapore can contribute to climate change.

"I do not see any leaders saying let us eat less, eat more vegetables, eat less meat."

Giving examples of how the global environment has changed over the years, Mr Lee recounted seeing clear blue skies when he visited Beijing in 1999 to attend China's 50th anniversary celebrations only to learn later that this was so because the factories had stopped operations for two weeks.

"I do not see them stopping for two years. So we all face a problem," said Mr Lee.

Australia is taking a step in the right direction, he said, by setting aside about $200,000 to conserve Borneo's rainforests.

But closer to the hearts of the audience was the impact global warming would have on the maritime industry. He said: "We are witnessing the opening moves by various countries over the North-west and Northern Passage, as a result of the melting of polar ice caps over the Arctic. In the next few decades, shipping lanes between the Pacific and the Atlantic may switch to these Arctic routes during the summer season."

Mr Lee said he is open to suggestions on how to make the maritime industry greener, saying: "If you can feed us as to how the maritime industry can improve itself without becoming too uncompetitive ... we will push it."

During the nearly hour-long session, Mr Lee had also shared his views on international relations and terrorism.


Straits Times 26 Sep 07

MM Lee finds climate change a 'woeful' topic
Governments still lack the will to stop environmental degradation, he says
By Lynn Lee

CLIMATE change is a topic Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew finds 'woeful' because he is not optimistic about the will of governments to stop environmental degradation.

Already, rising global temperatures have caused ice in the Canadian Arctic to melt, he said. Ice caps in the Antarctic are also under threat.

'When the polar bears disappear from the Arctic, I'll be sad, but I will be sadder when the Antarctic ice cap melts,' Mr Lee told his audience of maritime industry bigwigs during an hour-long dialogue at the inaugural Singapore Maritime Lecture.

Ice in the Arctic is already in the sea, so water levels will not rise much when it melts, he explained. In the Antarctic, on the other hand, ice rests on land. When it melts, water levels will rise significantly, he said.

'So when I sit back and think about all these things, I get rather pensive,' Mr Lee said at the Fullerton Hotel. 'But at the same time, one mustn't give up hope,' he said.

The possibility of rising sea levels is high on Singapore's radar. The Republic has already engaged the Dutch to teach it how to build dykes.

Mr Lee also responded to a question on what Singapore could do to promote a cleaner world for the shipping industry, particularly in Asia. He said he had not fully studied ways to make shipping more green, but he knew that the type of fuel used could make a difference, though it could come at a higher cost.

His verdict: More ideas are needed on how to balance environmental protection with staying competitive.

'So if you can feed us with how the maritime industry can improve itself without becoming too uncompetitive and cutting the pollution, we will push it,' he said.

He pointed out that when it came to climate change, it was hard to get rising powers like China and India to agree to stem the process. He said their answer would probably be: Other countries have polluted the world before us, and if we stop now, it will affect industrialisation.

What can work, said Mr Lee, is for climatologists to predict what will happen in 20 or 30 years if nothing is done to stop environmental degradation. They can, for instance, stress that if glaciers in the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau melt away, floods will ensue, he said.

But past the rainy season, rivers will dry up and scores of people who live along their banks will have to find a new way of life. Countries will then have to accept this truth:

'Never mind who gave what in the past. We're now at this junction. If you continue like this and I continue like this, we're both dead.'

Mr Lee's comments struck Mr Felix Scheder-Bieschin Jr, managing director of shipping firm Macs Maritime Carrier, who said: 'For a man of his wisdom, he was very open about not having the answer to the climate change issue.'

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