For World Environment Day happening on 5 June this weekend, the ISTS team asks Dr. Ng Lee Ching, a group director at the Environmental Health Institute at National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore, about climate change and how it affects our environment. Dr. Ng is also featured in the Climate Action Show (CAS) in Science Centre Singapore where she focuses on the rise of Aedes mosquitos.
What does ‘Climate Action’ mean to you/NEA?
Climate change is a global challenge that requires a global response. Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and changes in weather patterns can cause significant disruptions to homes, businesses, and livelihoods globally. As a small island city-state, Singapore is vulnerable to the
impacts of climate change. In recent years, we have experienced heavy rainfall, flash floods, and warmer mean temperatures.
Climate change could also contribute to public health risks. With rising temperatures, viruses and infectious diseases that thrive in warmer climates, such as dengue fever, Zika, and chikungunya,
will afflict more of the world’s population.
‘Climate Action’ means taking steps to mitigate and build resilience against climate change. Our
collective and progressive efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are needed to
tackle the effects of climate change. On the public health front, we must continue to develop
new tools to tackle the growing threat of infectious diseases brought about by the effects of climate
In your vignette, you focus on the rise of dengue due to the rising temperatures from climate change and human influence. How does climate change affect the spread of diseases?
Singapore is situated in a region where mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, are endemic.
Dengue cases usually peak during the warmer months of the year – as higher temperatures
result in a higher dengue mosquito population and facilitate faster multiplication of the dengue
virus in the mosquitoes, hence increasing the chances of dengue transmission among the human
population. Climate change poses a significant public health threat in this region, especially in
densely populated cities such as Singapore.
With the global rise in temperature, we are also seeing mosquito vectors moving into territories
previously uninhabitable for certain vector species, leading to geographical redistribution and
shifting the burden of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and malaria.
Travel and trans-border activities, increasingly convenient, have facilitated the geographical
spread of dangerous pathogens and invasive vectors.
Should individuals be just dependent on the efforts of the government or organisations in combating climate change?
Climate change impacts us way beyond diseases. If left unchecked, it may even threaten the future existence of our species. Such a mammoth threat must be confronted with an equally robust response by all. While governments drive mitigation and adaptation through evidence-
based policies and legislation, organisations and businesses must transform their strategies to accelerate our journey towards net-zero carbon emission. Collective actions of individuals like you and I are critical in this journey, as we make choices in our lifestyle and in the companies we support, which will directly impact the rate of climate change and indirectly shape strategies and
models of businesses.
Illustrations by Sung Jernin
Edited by Lydia Konig