PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2007, 12:00am

Heatwave a wake-up call on climate change

Extreme heat is now sweeping across Europe and Hong Kong. New cases of heatstroke are reported almost every day.

Climate change is no longer a remote issue, but actually leading to deaths in the territory.

What exactly is Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen waiting for before he gives the nod to action that combats global warming, like other leaders in world cities such as London and New York have done?

In an interview with Greenpeace last year, a street cleaner complained that 'the weather is getting hotter. I do not intend to be lazy, but I really want to take a rest from time to time [from] that sun . . . sometimes it is so hot that I want to vomit after my lunch.'

World cities such as London, New York and Toronto have already taken up the challenge to reduce their carbon emissions - by 50 to 80 per cent by 2050.

Other Asian cities - such as Tokyo and Bangkok - have joined the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group and taken measures to develop energy-saving buildings.

Hong Kong's long-time competitor, Singapore, has presented a national climate change strategy to its parliament for review and approval.

In the face of these repeated heatstroke cases in Hong Kong, all that has been done by the administration was for the Department of Health to issue a notice alerting citizens to possible health risks and for the Department of Home Affairs to open relief centres for the elderly and the disadvantaged.

It seems the chief executive is not interested in looking into the bigger picture behind the heatwave.

Mr Tsang must face up to his responsibilities in tackling global warming by firmly committing now to a climate change strategy for the city.

It is time for him to show his respect for people's lives, and our future generations.

Kevin Li, campaigner, Greenpeace China

Book alterations hit environment

I am writing to raise my concern over the frequent changes to textbooks and their unceasing price increases.

The publishers are adding a heavier burden to parents with this practice. Many local publishers provide numerous unnecessary accessories such as some CD-ROMs as learning supplements - which turn out to be the prime cause of the cost increase.

Changing of editions nearly every year reduces the possibility of reusing old books. It is a waste of paper and also a waste of parents' money.

Moreover, for some primary school books publishers compile many exercises that need to use the stickers attached to the books instead of using pencils. Again this prevents people reusing old books and is a waste of paper.

Yes, of course publishers are profit-making, but I truly hope that they can also take the environment and parents' wallets into consideration and not just their own profits.

Roy Tam Kwok-hang, Tsing Yi

Fewer people, not plastic bags

Congratulations to Richard Fielding ('Raising a stink over climate change sceptics', July 30) for having the courage to break the taboo and state what should be obvious: 'There is only one permanent solution for a finite planet - limits on the number of people' and what they consume.

Five minutes serious thought should make this plain to everyone. But how many of us do think seriously about anything not to our immediate advantage.

It is all too easy to worry about plastic bags and other 'solutions'.

Even if this idea on population control is accepted, what chance is there that it would be taken up against powerful religious opposition? What politician could hope for re-election if he dared to advocate such a policy?

It is hard not to despair.

W. Chadwick, Tsuen Wan

Other options for Star Ferry

I lived in Hong Kong from 1992-95 and ever since have come back every few months.

I consider it my second home, and the Star Ferry one of the most protection-worthy icons in the territory.

Having worked for a diesel-engine manufacturer, I was surprised to read your article ('Star Ferry fleet faces an uncertain future', July 28), since ready-made conversion kits (a diesel engine can also run on natural gas) are available, sulfur scrubbers and nitrogen oxide convertors are available as well.

If all this does not work, instead of scrapping the fleet, one might think of installing new propulsion systems using dual-fuel (99 per cent liquefied petroleum gas and one per cent pilot diesel fuel) or natural-gas spark-ignited engines.

Thomas Dorn, Shanghai

Students need a broader outlook

Due to our ossified education system, where academic excellence is the barometer of success, few university students watch television news or read newspapers.

Because of this, they are indifferent to what is happening around the world.

Better living standards and parental overindulgence breed complacency and indolence among our youngsters. Sadly, many university graduates are unable to adapt to the ever-changing economic environment.

I would like to see more students from other countries, coming to our universities.

By studying with overseas students, local university students could hone their language proficiency and broaden their horizons.

If there was a more competitive atmosphere, this could motivate our undergraduates.

There should also be more internships, so students could get work experience.

This would help them learn to work with other people and develop problem-solving skills.

At a time when the mainland economy is developing by leaps and bounds, Hong Kong faces an increasing risk of marginalisation.

It is all the more important for us to equip our graduates with a positive attitude, so they can overcome the challenges of a globalised world.

Yu Yiu-ho, Sha Tin

Reasonable time

I was surprised to read Jerry Hausman's letter about the long wait in line at Chek Lap Kok airport ('Long wait in line out of order', July 31), seeing that he is from the United States.

It is common for non-US citizens to wait in line for one to two hours when entering or leaving the US, even when the lines for US citizens are idle. The 35 minutes seems quite reasonable by comparison.

Tobias Doeringer, Ap Lei Chau

Kept in the dark

The article on the subject of jet lag ('Zoned out', July 30) reminds me of the irritation I feel when Cathay Pacific flight attendants ask me to close my window shade in the middle of the day - and read my book by artificial light - to enable other passengers to sit in the dark for eight hours and watch movies.

Daylight is highly beneficial for one's circadian rhythm, from all I have read, and I wish to read in a window seat with as much daylight as possible, but other passengers and the crew scowl at me for doing so.

Surely it's time for airlines to discourage their crew members from persuading window seat passengers to 'close up' and transform the aircraft into a movie theatre? They are doing passengers a great disservice.

B. Park, Mid-Levels