Drone Footage Shows Indonesia's Cataclysmic Forest Fires

By Torphy, Patrick | The Christian Science Monitor, October 7, 2015 | Go to article overview

Drone Footage Shows Indonesia's Cataclysmic Forest Fires


Torphy, Patrick, The Christian Science Monitor


Indonesia is battling its worst forest fires in nearly 20 years.

Wildlife is being devastated by the flames and smoke, creating vast amounts of pollution that could cause as many as 110,000 premature human deaths, says Greenpeace.

Drone footage captured by the environmental advocacy group shows endless acres of smoldering land, seemingly vacant of any life.

The fires, for the most part, are intentionally and illegally started using "slash and burn" deforestation techniques to feed the paper and palm oil industry, the Guardian reports. El Nino climate conditions have further increased fire risk in a region that has already been facing years of drought. Indonesia is using water bombers on the affected areas and artificial chemicals to cause rainfall.

The impact of such fires is wide-ranging, being felt well beyond the loss of vegetation and wildlife, as devastating as that is. Plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide, so when they burn, all of that CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. Indonesian peat swamp forests are a crucial carbon sink containing 60 gigatons of carbon, which if entirely burnt would equate to six years of global fossil fuel emissions, according to Greenpeace. The organization notes that in 1997, when Indonesia faced a similar crisis, pollution from the fires equated to "between 13 and 40% of global carbon emissions from fossil fuels." The pollution now is on track to match the total yearly emissions output of the United Kingdom.

Environmental concerns about the region were significant even before the fires started burning. A study published by the journal Nature Climate Change last year shows the rate of deforestation in the region is almost double that of the Amazon.

And now the neighbors are starting to complain: Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, where air quality has suffered because of the fires, are all objecting to what they see as insufficient action by Indonesia on the dire situation. …

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