Peat burning in bogs in Indonesia may be the explanation forthe sharp rise in atmospheric CO2 that was observed lastyear. CO2 is the main gas responsible for atmosphericwarming, and it has been rising since record keeping beganin 1950. The rate of increase has risen from around 0.8parts per million per year in the 1960s to around 1.5 ppmper year in the 1990s.
Since 2000, the rate of increase has increased dramatically,with an increase of 3.01 ppm recorded in August, 2003 forthe previous 12 months.
In the past, there have been single-year spikes associatedwith El Nino, but never a protracted year after yearincrease on the scale seen since 2000. Now Jack Reily of theUniversity of Nottingham says that these increases arerelated to massive peat burning on the island of Borneo inIndonesia. These tropical peatlands contain fifty billiontons of carbon, perhaps more. When farmers clear the forestsby burning, the peat beneath catches fire.
In October, visibility around Palangka Raya dropped to a fewhundred feet because of burning peat bogs in the area.Schools were shut and flights cancelled. It is estimatedthat burning peat has released upwards of three billion tonsof CO2 into the atmosphere since 2001, and accounts for upto 40% of all CO2 emissions worldwide.
Indonesia has no plans to stop, or even reduce, the amountof forest clearing, as hungry members of the country’sexploding population seek to grow more food.
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