The Climate in Emergency

A weekly blog on science, news, and ideas related to climate change


Your Tuesday Update: Indonesia

For this update, I’m going to direct you to an article by George Mionbot about the forest fires in Indonesia.

In case you can’t see that link, here it is again, right HERE.

Basically, there are massive wildfires going on right now, burning through huge areas of forest that are home to critically endangered animals, including orangutans. The smoke from the fires is also causing major air quality problems in the region, to the extent that thousands of people, especially children, may die. And those fires are now a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Forest fires are themselves not usually a big problem–forests that burn regularly adapt themselves to fire, and areas that burn are recolonized by organisms from areas that did not burn. The carbon dioxide emitted by the fire is taken up again as the forest grows back. But Indonesia’s forests have apparently been mismanaged for a very long time and that, combined with a serious El NiƱo-related drought, has allowed material to burn that otherwise would not have–releasing carbon dioxide that had been sequestered for a very long time and will not be easy to soak up again. Not to mention the fact that when habitat is already fragmented by logging and the palm oil industry, there might not be any left to spare to a forest fire So this isn’t a normal fire; it is a very serious situation which humans essentially caused and which is essentially being ignored (the story is being covered by big-name news agencies, such as NPR and the New York Times, it’s just not making the kind of headlines the scale of the problem deserves).

Read the article. And make some noise about the palm oil industry.