http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/indonesian-fires-emitting-more-greenhouse-gas-than-entire-usa/article/447099

Indonesian fires emitting more greenhouse gas than entire U.S.

Posted Oct 20, 2015 by Karen Graham
Indonesia's palm oil plantation fires have disrupted schools, travel and worst of all, endangered the health of millions of people. This environmental disaster has emitted over 1,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere this year.
Motorists travel under a heavy blanket of haze in Palangkaraya  on Indonesia's Borneo island  o...
Motorists travel under a heavy blanket of haze in Palangkaraya, on Indonesia's Borneo island, on October 12, 2015
Wisanggeni, AFP
Over a month ago, Indonesia's government declared a "state of emergency" after smoke pollution from the thousands of forest and bush fires pushed over half the country's 52 air quality monitoring stations into the "unhealthy" range.
The fires and resulting smoke pollution are nothing new, as the annual fires have gone on for years because Indonesia's economy has depended on slash-and-burn agriculture. But while the world has changed, agricultural practices in Indonesia have remained static, depending on the cheap labor and practices that further profits for the palm oil and paper-and-pulp industries.
School children walk through thick smoke on way to school in Indonesia.
School children walk through thick smoke on way to school in Indonesia.
Youtube
This year is a little different than most because a strong El Nino weather phenomenon has created extremely dry conditions across Southeast Asia and Australia, creating what Quartz is calling a long-lasting "smoke-out" for the region. The smoke pollution has been so bad that just about every human endeavor has been impacted, from schools, sporting events, air travel and of course, respiratory health.
Why are this year's fires so worrying?
Researchers from VU University Amsterdam, led by Guido van der Werf are saying this year's Indonesia fires have produced more emissions than Germany does in a year. They add that between September 1, and October 14, a period of only 26 days, greenhouse gas emissions were greater than those of the entire United States.
The team of researchers calculated that the 100,000 fires in Indonesia detected so far this year "emitted more than 1,000 metric tons (1,102 tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions cumulatively." The severity of this year's fires will put them in contention for being worse than the 2006 fires. Just last week, on October 14, there were 4,700 fire alerts, more than on any single day in the past two years.
Smoke from Indonesia forest fires pictured  on NASA's Terra satellite on September 24  2015
Smoke from Indonesia forest fires pictured on NASA's Terra satellite on September 24, 2015
, NASA/AFP
Over half the fires are on peatlands, and this makes them much harder to control. Peat has a high carbon content, and peat fires release vast amounts of smoke and carbon. Tropical peatland fires emit about 300Mg (megagrams, 106 g) of carbon per hectare. compared with 7.5-70Mg carbon per hectare with other habitats. The impact of peatland fires on global warming can be 200 times greater than fires on other types of land.
On October 8, Indonesia agreed to accept international help in fighting the fires, but only after turning down help from other nations for weeks, saying they could handle the blazes. However, even the addition of more water-bombing planes and helicopters has not helped.
Water is bombed onto burning forest from a helicopter in Indonesia's Riau province on September...
Water is bombed onto burning forest from a helicopter in Indonesia's Riau province on September 17, 2015
Adek berry, AFP
ABC.au.com is reporting that Malaysia's Environmental Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said, "Unless there is rain, there is no way human intervention can put out the fires." The comment was made by the minister on the sidelines of Malaysia's parliament session, with the minister adding the warning that the blazes were spread across "huge areas" of Indonesia.
Perhaps bowing to increased pressure internationally, Indonesia has revoked the land licenses of PT Mega Alam Sentosa and state-owned PT Dyera Hutan Lestari, the director-general for law enforcement at the forestry ministry, Rasio Rido Sani, told reporters late on Monday.
Indonesia and Malaysia control about 85 percent of the world's palm oil production, and recently, they announced their intention to form a palm oil cartel. This will not bode well for endangered species or the need for clean air. Even while the aim of the cartel is to ensure price stability and develop downstream industry, it also means the cartel will be able to ignore calls for more environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.