[Global] So far this year, Indonesia’s fires have produced more pollution than Germany or Japan does in a year.
On 26 days from the period of Sept. 1 to Oct. 14, their daily emissions surpassed those of the entire US (the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China), according to researchers led by Guido van der Werf from VU University Amsterdam.
Researchers from VU University calculated that the 100,000-plus fires in Indonesia detected so far this year (as of Oct. 21) have emitted about 1.4 billion metric tons (1.5 billion tons) of carbon dioxide equivalents. That puts the country on track for its worst fire year since 1997.
On Oct. 14 alone there were more than 4,700 fire alerts—that’s more than on any single day in the past two years.
More than half of them this year have occurred on peatland areas, concentrated mainly in south Sumatra, south and central Kalimantan (on Borneo), and Papua, according to the World Resources Institute, citing data from Global Forest Watch Fires.
According to the institute, peat fires can emit up to 10 times more methane—a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide—than fires occurring on other types of land. Taken together, the impact of peat fires on global warming can be more than 200 times greater than fires on other lands.
It happens every year, but this year is shaping up as one of the worst ever. During Indonesia’s dry season, certain people—rarely identified, much less punished—set illegal fires to make land suitable for the palm oil and paper-and-pulp industries.
At least half a million people have suffered from respiratory illness since the fires started in July and 43 million people have been affected in the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
More than 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of land has been burned and six provinces severely affected by the haze, according to Indonesia’s forestry ministry.
In Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan, Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings on September 23 reached 2,000 PSI and hovered around 1,090 into the afternoon. Anything above 151 is regarded as unhealthy and above 350 is hazardous. These are the highest readings ever recorded during the fire season.
Other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Japan have sent assistance to help Indonesia fighting the forest fires.
With Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Thailand already affected, the Philippines Friday said the haze had now spread there, disrupting air traffic and prompting warnings for residents to wear face masks.
Tropical peatland fires are not like regular forest fires. They generate enormous amounts of smoke and are fiendishly difficult to extinguish. Draining and burning these lands for agricultural expansion leads to huge spikes in greenhouse gas emissions.
Don’t expect such fires to go away anytime soon. Indonesia and Malaysia—which control about 85% of the world’s palm oil production—recently announced their intentions to establish a palm oil cartel. This could help them set their own environmental standards (or maintain the status quo), and pay less heed to calls to produce palm oil in ways that preserve wildlife habitat, protect the environment, and don’t make breathing so difficult for millions of people living in Southeast Asia.
View original article at: Escaping the big smog: Evacuees take to the roads in desperate attempt to escape acrid haze and choking pollution caused by forest fires in Indonesia, Indonesia’s palm oil fires are emitting more greenhouse gases every day than the entire US