Friday, December 05, 2008

MM Lee, climate change and air-conditioning

A few days ago, on Wednesday (3/12/2008), the Straits Times published an article entitled "MM: No pushing back climate change". In this article, there was mention of an interesting exchange between MM Lee and a questioner on the issue of air-conditioning in Singapore (see below in italics).

Singapore is known for its equatorial climate, but yesterday, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew revealed that when indoors in Singapore, he needs warm clothing more often than he does on his trips to Europe.

That is because 'the offices are freezing!', he declared, explaining that the low temperatures are a consequence of central air-conditioning systems in office buildings.

His comment drew laughter from the audience attending his 40-minute dialogue with former United States president Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative Asia meeting yesterday afternoon.

Mr Lee was responding to a question from Ms Liao Xiaoyi, president of Global Village, a Beijing-based environmental group, who had asked him why the Singapore Government did not take measures to address the problem of excessive energy consumption caused by the widespread use of air-conditioners.

Ms Liao, who has visited Singapore, said she could not 'understand the ridiculous phenomenon of why every house is so cold'.

In China, she said, the government has ordered that all air-conditioned public rooms must not be set lower than 26 deg C in summer, and no higher than 20 deg C in winter to save energy.

Chinese media reports say air-conditioners account for 30 to 50 per cent of office buildings' power consumption. Some cities such as Shanghai have been known to experience power shortages when the use of air conditioners is high.

Singapore, said Mr Lee, attempts to rein in the use of energy-guzzling air-conditioners by pricing.

'We give everybody a quota for normal consumption, if you go beyond that you pay a surtax on your electricity,' he said but added that the problem was that 'in a growingly affluent society, people say 'never mind I'll pay up'.'

Why do I find this exchange interesting? Well, it reminded me of a small segment from a 2001 RTHK documentary about MM Lee (see below in italics).

Narrator: For someone born and raised in a place close to the equator, Lee Kuan Yew is strangely averse to heat.

Interviewer: The greatest invention of this century must be...?

Lee Kuan Yew: The air-conditioner, for me. (laughs)

Narrator: The room temperature of his office is kept at 22 degrees Celsius, and that of his bedroom at 19 degrees Celsius.

Hmm... I cannot help but wonder if MM Lee still keeps the room temperatures of his office and bedroom at such low levels or has he, in light of climate change and a recent government initiative encouraging people to reduce usage of air-conditioners or to at least set the air-conditioning temperature to be 25 degrees Celsius or higher, stopped using air-conditioning or at least increased the temperature settings?

Oh well, at least Singapore's public sector appears to be taking the lead in maximising energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

And, yup, since we're on this topic of climate change and energy efficiency, allow me to use this opportunity to appeal to you all to minimise your energy wastage. Even if you all can afford large electrical bills, then at least do it for the sake of the global environment...

P.S. If you all need tips on how to reduce energy wastage, here may be a good place to start.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MM Lee would like to control the temperatures of his rooms, just like about everything in Singapore. Controlled temperatures may give him an intelligence edge when he contemplates how to do things in his domain.

Severe climate changes may not come in his lifetime.

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