You know exactly what a fever feels like. Body aches and headaches, fatigue, your skin feels hot to the touch, but you still need layers of blankets to avoid the chills. A fever is the body’s response to infection as it works to protect itself, but when a human being’s temperature rises just two degrees from a healthy temperature of 36.6 degrees Celsius to a feverish 38.6, it leaves the body feeling unwell and unable to function normally. It’s a similar story for the planet.
Minimal temperature increases like 1.5 or two degrees Celsius might sound insignificant, but when it comes to our planet they can have a massive impact. As the planet heats up, people are increasingly becoming exposed to more extreme weather such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones, and even half a degree can make a massive difference. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that if the world warms two degrees Celsius by 2100, 37 percent of the global population could be exposed to severe heat waves at least once every five years, but fewer than half of that number would be affected in a 1.5 degree scenario.
Since the late 19th century when burning fossil fuels was becoming more widespread, the Earth has warmed by an average of more than one degree Celsius, and in some places has warmed beyond that level. In Singapore, the temperature is rising at a rate of .25 degrees Celsius per decade –– twice as fast as the rest of the world –– and it is almost one degree Celsius hotter today than it was in the 1950’s. The island nation faces unique challenges in the wake of climate change, but there are those who are dedicated to ensuring it remains a thriving and habitable city-state such as Min-Liang Tan, the Razer CEO. Below, we explore the nature of a city on the front lines of climate change, as well as what people like Min-Liang Tan are doing to combat it.
The air-conditioned nation
Singapore’s rapid rise in temperature is thought to be caused by global warming working in combination with what scientists call the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, which occurs when cities replace natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. Although cities need not be built on an island to experience the UHI effect, Singapore’s tropical climate and location just north of the equator were certainly a factor in contributing to the exacerbation. Another factor that has contributed to the UHI effect? Singapore’s loving relationship with air conditioners.
Indeed, Singapore’s economic transformation from colonial port to manufacturing hub and global financial center would most likely not have been possible without central cooling. The country’s founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, believed that air conditioning was the reason civilization was even possible in the tropics, and his first act upon becoming prime minister in 1959 was to order the installation of air conditioning in civil service offices. In many ways, his belief was correct: air-conditioning mitigates the effects of heat and reduces the risk of insect-borne diseases, and can overall improve the productivity of offices.
However, the reliance on air conditioners and the way the city was built around their functionality has also created new issues. Whereas in the past buildings may used shady verandas and open courtyards to encourage air flow and keep things cool, air conditioning encouraged the compact landscape of high-rise apartments and offices which in turn blast exhaust air out of them and intensify the heat on the streets. This contributes to the UHI effect, and additionally contributes further to climate change through the emission of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Commonly used as refrigerants, HFCs are also greenhouse gases that have been shown to trap more heat than carbon dioxide.
Singapore’s National Environment Agency announced in March of 2020 a package of HFC mitigation measures, including the recovery, reclamation and destruction of spent refrigerants for chillers and household air-conditioners, as well as progressively phasing out equipment that uses HFCs with high global warming potential. The government is also exploring ways to reduce the heat in urban areas and reduce reliance on air-conditioning such as studying the effectiveness of “cool paint” to reduce ambient temperature, encouraging passive cooling through urban design, and increasing greenery along the streetscapes and through vertical and rooftop greenery.
For the Razer CEO, the sustainable future of Singapore is inextricably tied with his company. Tan was born and raised in the island nation and attended the National University of Singapore. Although today an international brand with a base in the United States along with 17 offices across the globe, Min-Liang Tan has ensured that Razer’s roots remain entrenched in Singapore, as evidenced by the construction of a 19,300 square meter seven-story building that will serve as the new Razer Southeast Asian headquarters. Located at one-north business park in Queenstown, Singapore, the building will house office space, research and development labs and design studios, and in February of this year Tan announced on LinkedIn that the company’s signature three-headed snake logo had first been illuminated at the top of the building, along with his intention to hire for roughly 1,000 positions for the location.
Perhaps most importantly, the new headquarters will align with Tan and Razer’s 10-year environmental roadmap announced this year. The gaming lifestyle brand titled it their #GoGreenWithRazer movement, aimed at helping protect the environment and ensuring a cleaner, greener world for future generations. Amongst the targets set by the company include the use of 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, and the new headquarters in Singapore is slated to be one of the first of the company’s 17 offices to do so. The footprint of renewable energies such as nuclear, wind and solar are much lower than that of coal and gas, and the strong commitment of a Singaporean company with global reach to sustainability could inspire others within the region to follow.
In addition to renewable energy, Tan and Razer committed to a number of other initiatives, including all products to use recycled or recyclable materials by 2030 and being 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030. They will also ensure that all products will be recyclable with the brand by year 2025. This includes the disposal and recycling of Razer products by both customers and global distributors, and Razer will encourage customers to return their old Razer peripherals to any RazerStore worldwide for free-of-charge recycling.
Climate change is a serious threat to life as we know it on this planet, and in order to mitigate these devastating outcomes there must be an unprecedented global effort made by individuals, enterprises and governments. While as individuals there are obviously small steps that can be taken within our own lives to reduce our carbon footprint, it is the policies put in place by the larger organizations of the world that can have the highest impact. Every area in the world will face unique challenges in the coming years when it comes to mitigating the effect of climate change, but through efforts made by leaders such as Razer’s CEO the possibility is greater that they can be surmounted.