The impact of sea level rise on Singapore

  • NG W
  • MENDELSOHN R
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Abstract

Global climate change is expected to cause sea level rise, which will have major effects on Singapore because it is a small, low-lying island state. With the high degree of urbanization and industrialization on the island, land is scarce and very valuable. Examining three sea level rise scenarios for the next century, we explore whether Singapore should defend their coast or allow it to be inundated. Across ten coastal sites representing all market land in Singapore, we found that protection was the lowest cost strategy. The annual cost of protecting the coasts of Singapore will rise over time as the sea level rises and will range from 0.3 to 5.7 million US$ by 2050 to 0.9 to 16.8 million US$ by 2100. The present value of these costs ranges from 0.17 to 3.08 million US$ depending on the sea level rise scenario. 1. Introduction Sea level rise is seen as one of the more prominent consequences of climate change (Rijsberman, 1991). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 (Church et al., 2001), it is very likely that warming will contribute significantly to future sea level rise, through thermal expansion of sea water and widespread loss of land ice. Human habitat could be affected significantly, as nearly 20 per cent of the world's population lives within 30 km of the sea, and approximately 40 per cent live within 100 km of the coast (Cohen et al., 1997; Gommes et al., 1998). A 1998 study by Nicholls and Mimura (1998) has estimated that by 2100, 600 million people will inhabit the coastal floodplain below the 1000-year flood level. As indicated by Nurse et al. (2001), low-lying coastal regions and islands in particular are the most vulnerable to rising seas. The problem may be even more severe in the future as coastal populations worldwide expand. The major effects of a rise in sea level are the loss of land due to inundation and erosion, increased flooding during storm surges and rainstorms, and the intrusion of saltwater into aquifers, estuaries, and wetlands (Titus, 1993). This paper examines the potential loss of coastal land to rising seas in Singapore using a method first developed by Yohe et al. (1995). We calculate the value of potentially lost market land each decade over the next century and the cost of protection. We assume that Singapore will choose the least cost adaptation option, which in this case turns out to be protection of all market lands along the coast. The study demonstrates that this cost–benefit

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Authors

  • WEI-SHIUEN NG

  • ROBERT MENDELSOHN

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