During the second industrial revolution, countries were competing to become more industrialized and in the later parts of the 19th century as well as the earlier parts of the 20th century, countries saw huge leaps in technological advancement. During that time, survival, economic progress and higher standards of living were the focus. Sustainability was not a core area of focus. Fast forward to 2016, in the Paris agreement on sustainability, 175 countries signed the pact to improve sustainability and to combat climate change. This, at least on paper shows the urgency of countries and corporations commitment to sustainability and climate change. Climate change and sustainability is now a big area of focus across all sectors from transportation to agriculture. If we do not take charge and reverse/combat climate change, in the very near future, sea levels will rise and large plots of lands and even cities may be submerged in water. Individuals as well as groups need to take charge to reduce greenhouse emissions and to combat climate change.
It is sad to say that in certain circumstances, companies and organizations and even governments embark on climate change initiatives as a marketing strategy to make them look good to customers and to other countries/governments. Even then, the silver lining is that at least through this, something is being done at a bigger scale. Established institutions and universities and other establishments of knowledge are also investing mental capital to work on means to reduce energy consumption and to explore new ways to generate electricity without burning fossil fuel. One aspect that leads to climate change is our over reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are a finite natural resource that adds to the climate change problem. Coal, natural gas and oil is burned to generate electricity. This electricity is then distributed to industrial, residential and other premises. We should never go out and tell people lets ban everything just because we have seen a bad side effect of something beneficial. We should rather take a moderate approach and ask the right questions.
The problem that needs to be addressed by the current generation is as follows:
Are we efficiently using the energy we produce or are we wasting resources due to over indulgence? Sustainability and needs. Is it sustainable? Are we satisfying needs or wants? If they are wants, where is the line that says stop?
This should be the main question that each energy user should ask. Instead of arguing if we should completely ban the burning of fossil fuel, banning of eating meat due to greenhouse gases produced by the animals and so on, the question should be 1) is it sustainable and 2) is it a need?
Sustainability in the ASHRAE Green guide is defined as the following “providing for the needs of the present without detracting from the ability to fulfil the needs of the future”
Technically, the entire discussion on sustainability is focused heavily on the future, distant or near. The current generation should plan for future generations and not over consume beyond a point of no return in climate change. Sustainability is also comprehensive and not only limited to the use of fossil fuels and energy.
Energy aside, water has always been important to sustain life. There is no life without water and clean drinkable water is fast becoming a scarce source for the rising population all around the world. Even countries that used to have a steady source of water seems to be dealing with water scarcity recently. One example is the Linggui reservoir (in Malaysia, Johor) that nearly went dry in early 2017. If the situation worsened, Malaysia could have cut off potable water supply to Singapore and that would have created a very difficult situation for Singapore.
As of 2016, the domestic water demand in Singapore is 45% as compared to Non-domestic demand of 55%. The water demand for the domestic sector is supplied by the local catchment and imported water (from Johor). The 55% non-domestic water supply comes from 25% desalinated water and NeWater (treated water). By 2060, the local sector will only use 30% of the water supply while the non-domestic sector will use the majority of 70%. The domestic sector will come from local catchment and imported water and the non-domestic sector will be supplied by 30% desalinated water and 55% NEWater.
We know that demand is increasing and means to meet these demands need to be addressed. So in the next article, we will discuss on the various types of engineering that can be proposed to meet future energy and water needs.