Thoughts on the NCCS Public Perception Survey on Climate Change in Singapore

From Oct to Dec last year, the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) commissioned a survey among 1,010 Singaporeans aged 15 and above, to find out the current level of public awareness, attitudes and behaviours towards climate change in Singapore.

Here’s some of the survey results and our thoughts:

Gap Between Awareness and Action

These survey results show that most Singaporeans are concerned about climate change and its effect on Singapore, and feel that they play a part in taking action. The results are not surprising, as it is similar to responses from previous NEA and Gallup surveys, which show similar positive responses from Singaporeans on environmental and climate change issues.

We think that Singaporeans know about climate change as we are being exposed to local and international environmental news through the printed and online media, but we tend to stop at awareness and not translate that into action. The survey results show a concern about climate change and a desire to take action, but does not describe actual actions. We feel that there is still a big gap to be bridged between awareness and action in Singapore.

Although survey participants indicated their current practices to address climate change, we feel that the numbers are too positive and higher than the real situation. For example:

  • 90.3% of survey participants indicated that they turn off electrical appliances at the main. In a 2010 LOHAS Study of the Singapore market, only 71% out of 1,000 participants say they unplug or tun off electronics.
  • 80.3% of participants said they practise the 3Rs. In 2010, Singapore’s recycling rate is only 58% and the household participation rate in the National Recycling Programme is 63% in 2008.
  • 76.8% say they use public transport when possible. A transport survey of 10,500 households in Singapore show that 59% of respondents used public transport.
  • 72.3% choose appliances which carry an Energy Label. Since 2008, it is mandatory for all air-conditioners, refrigerators and clothes dryers to have the Energy Label, so Singaporeans are already choosing Energy Label appliances by default.

Like all our New Year resolutions and plans to lose weight and exercise more, we are always concerned, feel we need to take action, and feel we will be affected if we don’t take action. But in reality, we are swept by the waves of our busy daily lives and go on business-as-usual. We know and we care, but we don’t act, until it hurts.

The government has to find ways of helping Singaporeans translate their awareness, knowledge, concerns and desires into real actions.

Both Individual and Systemic Actions

The survey results show that 56.3% of Singaporeans think that individuals are mainly responsible for taking action on climate change, followed by government (26.3%) and businesses (10.6%). While it is important for the individual to take action on climate change, it is even more important to focus on systemic actions. We must understand that the main contributors of carbon dioxide emissions in Singapore are from the industry and building sectors – 70% in 2005.

We need systemic actions such as building sustainable urban infrastructure and green buildings; increasing the resilience of our energy, water and food security; redesigning and developing new ways of making and reusing products and materials; and conserving our biodiversity. These large systemic actions can only be achieved through the efforts of the government and businesses, but it can happen faster with individuals pushing for these actions to be discussed and implemented.

Everyone can play a part to tackle climate change in Singapore, through our own individual actions and through encouraging the government and businesses to take action in creating systemic changes.

Images: NCCS

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