Southeast Asia’s Peat Fires and Global Warming

Press Release
Southeast Asia's Peat Fires and Global Warming
By EcoInternet and Biofuelwatch
October 18, 2006
(Madison, WI, USA) – Hundreds of peat and forest fires are once again burning across Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra, releasing vast quantities of greenhouse gases and destroying the livelihoods of local communities and rainforest habitats of countless species. Those annual fires release as much carbon as 15% of all emissions from burning fossil fuels worldwide.
So far some 2,500 people from 75 countries have written to the UK, US and other governments from to demand urgent international action at the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi. The ongoing campaign is organized by EcoInternet and supported by the British campaign group Biofuelwatch. It calls for urgent measures to stop the conversion of peat forests into timber and oil palm plantations, or agriculture, and to restore the peatlands which have already been drained and degraded.

Almuth Ernsting, a member of Biofuelwatch, states: “The destruction of south-east Asia’s peat forests is a major threat to the global climate, as well as to local people in Indonesia and Malaysia, and to global biodiversity. This is not simply somebody else’s problem to solve: Across south-east Asia, millions of hectares of land are being converted to timber and oil palm plantations, and the UK is a major importer of timber products and palm oil from this region. Ironically, Britain, as part of the EU, is trying to meet some of its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol through the use of biodiesel, and much of this is made from palm oil. Far from reducing climate change emissions, we are subsidizing the destruction of one of the Earth’s most important carbon sinks. We are therefore calling on UK citizens to support the EcoInternet appeal.”
Scientists estimate that the 1997 peat and forest fires emitted up to 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon and that the average is around 1 billion tonnes a year. By comparison, the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce emissions from all Annex 1 countries by only 188 million tonnes a year from 1990 levels. Once the peat has been drained, all the carbon will enter the atmosphere

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5 Responses

  1. Gerhard L. Mueller-Debus says:

    Dear Dr. Barry,
    It is unbelievable that they started these fires again. I worked in Singapore from 1997 thru 2000, when there was already a big man-made haze problem, that confined the sight to abt. 50 meters and forced people to inhale poisonous stuff, which equalled the poison of up to 100 (!) cigarettes per day….not to talk about the impact on the climate of all this…. we've got to fight this !
    Best regards,
    Gerhard L. Mueller-Debus

  2. Bob says:

    I'm just a little surprised (though I've heard of THIS monstrous problem before) that the uncontrolled coal-fires burning in China is not also included. Apparently there are thousands? millions? of such low-grade
    fires , many of which defy attempts to extinguish them.. that put tons of
    sulfurous pollution in the air (and have destroyed local areas, thanks to
    the fallout. Many most?) of these fires are on the surface, in outcroppings of bare coal.. local peasants dig up chunks for their own use, but leave that much more open to combust.

  3. megan clowd says:

    i am completely amazed that no one is doing anything about this terrible issue!i mean the rainforest is a magnificant ecosystem and provides the world with so much life but yet we dont care about it.we can do things about the fires, its not rocket science.
    my regards

  4. San says:

    I’ve signed many petitions including the one sent out on the Peat Fires in Indonesia
    Personally, I don’t believe the Malaysian or Indonesian governments have the will nor the capability to stop this
    Can I suggest that a campaign be started against the many Palm oil companies (in Indonesia and Malaysia -many based in Malaysia if not listed on the Malaysian Exchange)
    Eg, companies like Golden Hope, Kuala Lumpur Kepong, PT Astra, …
    I think like the commercial boycott we have seen against Japanese companies that own(ed) whaling fleets and Kimberley Clark with its use of ancient Canadian forests for tissue paper(!!), this may be the only way to get some awareness directly to the source..

  5. Perrault Ans says:

    Animal Rescue: Indonesian Forest Fires Threaten Wildlife
    Wild fires have been raging throughout Indonesia on both Sumatran and Borneo islands for several weeks. Unfortunately, wild fires are a common occurrence in Indonesia. However, these fires have escalated to a disaster level.
    In response to devestating impact of the fires on orangutans, IFAW is supporting the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) and their local team of rescuers who are currently rescueing orangutans from forest fires and palm oil plantation development.
    Choking atmospheric haze has prompted health warnings, caused flight cancellations, airport closures, and reduced visibility that traffic movement in neighboring south east Asian countries is affected.
    Many species of wildlife have been affected in the wildlife reserves. Conservation groups fear many more animal tragedies as the fires escalate. The wildlife habitats of the endangered orangutan, elephant and other animals are threatened by these big fires, which were initially started as a cheap way to clear forest land by letting wild fires burn out of control.
    Not only has this led to wildlife habitats being destroyed, it has also led to wildlife displacement and animals bearing the brunt of the fires. Animals are being orphaned, injured and maimed due to their closeness to humans in plantations and nearby areas.
    Indonesia's neighbors – Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – convened an emergency meeting with Indonesian officials to urge Indonesia to ratify a treaty calling for regional cooperation to stop the burning. The only way to stop these raging fires and their impacts on wildlife is to wait for the annual rains which are expected to arrive within the next few weeks.
    Stay tuned for animal rescue reports from the field.
    Watch Video from IFAW's ER Team
    Indonesia Wild Fires Update: November 10
    Indonesia Wild Fires Update: November 9
    Indonesia Wild Fires Update: November 6
    Indonesian Wild Fires Update: November 5
    Arial view of a typical landscape being burnt to establish palm oil plantations. This area was once a thriving jungle.
    Adult male orangutan on the island of Borneo. Orangutans are the only Great Apes that live solely in trees.
    ©A. Ramanathan

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