Coal mining in Indonesia. Image by Dominik Vanyi/Unsplash.

Amidst the bombardment of coronavirus stories, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) has released a new, 48-minute documentary about climate change. Featuring Data-Driven Lab Director Angel Hsu in a lab coat, Carbon Conundrum explores the science of global warming, its impacts on the climate and human civilization, as well as the myriad solutions available to us–if we are wise enough to embrace them.

Through interviews with experts from around the world, the documentary makes the case for an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling climate change, presenting several hopeful courses of action Singapore and other countries in the region could take to embark on a green transition, including investing in solar PV (rooftop and floating), green hydrogen solutions, net zero buildings, and mangrove restoration. The program also exposes, albeit briefly, the folly of Singapore’s continued reliance on the petroleum industry, and offers some immediate and long-term measures the government could implement to phase out oil and gas, in line with Dr. Hsu’s recommendations

While an all-hands-on-deck approach to climate change is necessary, it should be noted that some hands are disproportionately larger than others, some solutions more effective. Assaad Razzouk, CEO of Sindicatum Renewable Energy and host of the Angry Clean Energy Guy podcast, says it best in the closing minutes of Carbon Conundrum: “Yes, using less plastic helps; yes, taking less flights helps; however, far more powerful is a systemic top-down approach through government, through the courts, or through the capital markets. We can have a city that’s friendlier to pedestrians, to bicycles, and to public transport; we can ban single use plastics; we can mandate a minimum for air-conditioning so that we waste less energy; and we can ask our sovereign wealth funds to stop investing in fossil fuels around the world.” 

It might feel incongruous–even inappropriate–to be watching yet another documentary about climate change against the backdrop of a pandemic and recession, when lives and livelihoods are so immediately at risk. But one could argue that this is precisely the time to be educating and preparing ourselves for the next big shock to the system, one that will surely eclipse COVID-19 in terms of fatalities and the economic fallout. According to a report by the World Health Organization and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, climate change could cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from heat stress, malnutrition, vector-borne diseases, and diarrhoea between 2030 and 2050. At the same time, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Climate Change Resilience Index has shown that US$7.9 trillion could be wiped out from the global economy by 2050 as a result of intensified droughts, floods, and crop failures. Climate change is thus a threat we need to be taking seriously even as we scramble to contain the coronavirus. In fact, some have argued that COVID-19 is part of the climate crisis, and we should be tackling its roots: our relentless consumption and pursuit of growth at all costs. ‘Business as usual’ will only lead to worsening healthcare systems and the continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions, to the detriment of present and future generations.

Watch Carbon Conundrum here