(Oct 22): Land-scarce, low-lying and increasingly hot Singapore is going to have to find room for more than a quarter of a million new trees and shrubs as the city-state steps up measures to respond to climate change.

“Citizens around the world have come to recognise climate change for what it is -- the defining issue of our times,” Masagos Zulkifli, minister for the environment and water resources, told a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A strong, united global response is needed, he said.

Singapore is devoting considerably more state resources to deal with the challenge, making the case that shifts in the climate pose a threat to the nation’s very existence. In August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it could cost $100 billion or more over the next century to prepare the country to deal with rising sea levels, hotter temperatures and more intense rainfall.

“Our weather is getting warmer, our rainstorms heavier, and dry spells more pronounced,” Masagos said at the meeting on Monday. The government’s plans to respond “will incorporate nature-based solutions,” he said, adding that at present, the country has more than 2 million trees.

Last month was the hottest and driest September on record, Masagos said.

Singapore, which has introduced a tax on carbon, aims to stabilise its emissions by around 2030, Masagos said. “We must not take our eyes off the long-term, existential challenge of climate change,” he said. “Otherwise, citizens will take their cause to the streets and reason will fail to rule.”

Climate change -- and how best to tackle it -- has risen up toward the top of the agenda for global policy makers, with many nations seeing more protests. Last month, high-profile environmental activist Greta Thunberg scolded heads of state at a United Nations summit in New York.

“The multilateral system is under strain, with the rise of nationalist, isolationist and protectionist sentiments,” Masagos said. “Despite awareness and concern about climate change being at its highest, some governments at one end of the spectrum allow forests to be burned to clear land for economic development, and use coal for energy generation.”