Indonesia’s forest fires have catapulted the southeast Asian nation to the top of the rankings of the world’s worst global warming offenders, with daily emissions exceeding those of China on at least 14 days in the past two months.
The nation’s total daily carbon dioxide emissions, including from power generation, transport and industry, exceeded those of the U.S. on 47 of the 74 days through Oct. 28, according to Bloomberg analysis of national emissions data from the World Resources Institute in Washington and Indonesian fire-emissions data from VU University in Amsterdam.
Smog caused by the fires has generated headlines and a diplomatic flare-up between Indonesia and its neighbors in southeast Asia. It’s a threat to human health and has disrupted flights in the region. At the same time, burning trees and peatlands are pumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere at a time when more than 190 nations are gearing up to sign a new agreement to stem global warming in Paris in December.
“The problem that we see in Indonesia with essentially unrestrained deforestation going on is a bad message for the world,” Bill Hare, chief executive officer of Potsdam, Germany-based policy researcher Climate Analytics, said in a phone interview. “If we can’t really control deforestation in this region, who’s going to be next? It would be a signal that countries can get away with this kind of deforestation without any real constraint.”
The fires are caused by clearing woodland for paper and palm oil plantations, and have been worsened by El Nino-related dry conditions.