Ken Hickson, climate change consultant, advisor and six-time author including The ABC of Carbon and Race for Sustainability looks at Singapore’s place in climate departure.

In travel terms, we know exactly the difference between arrivals and departures. At Changi Airport it’s made very clear where to go for one or the other. But when it comes to “climate departure”, it actually means the point in time when the impact of a warming world “arrives” on the doorsteps of your city or country. Not signed quite so easily.

Not to be alarmist, but a very scientific study by the University of Hawaii published in Nature (October 2013) worked out the point in time when the earth’s climate stops resembling what has come before, and moves into a new state. One where heat records are routinely shattered and, what was once considered extreme, will become the norm. This is the point of no return – in travel talk – when we cannot turn the clock back, ask the pilot to turn around or delay our check-out because we’re having such a good time.

Some of us can be forgiven for thinking that the impact of climate change is something that the human race will likely experience in the distant future going by the inaction – and indifference? – of many Governments and industries. There needs to be a sense of urgency, because climate change is already having an impact.

Temperatures are increasing. Every year is warmer than the last. Sea levels are rising. We are seeing more extreme weather situations around the world than ever before.

Of course, action is being taken in some instances. The Paris Agreement at the end of 2015 means every country in the world is set to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. To turn away from burning fossil fuels and switch to clean renewable energy. But perhaps we’ve left it too late.

Because, going by the climate departure study, we are all in line for the arrival of the impacts of climate change sooner than most of us expected.  If we take action to drastically reduce and stabilise emissions we might be able to delay or lessen the impact. Tropical locations – that’s us! – will feel the effects of this shift first. In the 2020s! Of all places on Earth, Indonesia will face its point-of-no-return first, in 2020. That’s a mere two and a half years’ away.

The researchers have identified a place called Manokwari – capital of the province of West Papua and a tourist area – as first in-line for climate departure. Other South East Asian cities next in-line are Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) 2027, Singapore in 2028, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in 2029.

Australia has a little more breathing space. Perhaps surprisingly, Sydney is the first of the Australian cities to be impacted in 2038. Darwin, Brisbane and Perth are expected to see a time of change in 2042.

Of course we should not take this to mean we can just sit around and wait for the worst to come. We can change our ways. We can save water, energy, waste. That will make a difference. We can also – like good boy scouts and girl guides – be prepared. Just like Singapore accepts that sea levels are rising. With 30{fad86f5e3336133246a213aa2a2588200b27e4ae08b3f6f25405093f2c4991ee} of the island state being less than five metres above sea level, protecting the coastline and improving drainage is one of the priorities in dealing with the effects of climate change. To cater for long-term sea level rise, the minimum land reclamation level in Singapore was raised from three metres to four metres above the mean sea level in 2011.

Singapore is doing a lot more to not only mitigate – change our wasteful ways and cut emissions – but also to plan for the future by assessing the risks and adapting to unavoidable changes.

We can all do our bit. Better late than never. But we have to recognise that climate change is for real and it’s coming to a city near you sooner than most of  us expected.

Maybe we can delay the inevitable. Maybe we can prepare for the worst and it won’t be so bad.

But we cannot bury our head in the sand on our tropical island and pretend climate change will go away.