The ongoing forest fires on parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, brought about by people's slash-and-burn practices to clear land for palm oil and paper industries, are now labelled a crime against humanity by global media while Indonesia has turned into the world's largest daily carbon dioxide emissions surpassing China and the USA. The severe haze that has been plaguing parts of Southeast Asia brings health problems, economic costs and bad publicity amid a time when most countries are teaming up to combat global warming.
Illegal slash-and-burn practices are an annually recurring problem in Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, during the dry season, made possible by the country's weak law enforcement and people's weak awareness of the importance of a clean environment. This year, conditions deteriorated significantly due to the El Nino weather phenomenon that brings an extended dry season to Southeast Asia. Earlier this week, the Indonesian government admitted that it had underestimated the devastating impact of the El Nino. On average, El Nino strikes once every five years but the world has not seen such a strong one since 1997.
It was reported overnight that, finally, rainfall occurred in affected regions in Kalimantan and Sumatra, immediately helping to clear smoke, improve visibility and reduce the number of fires. However, much more rain is needed in the days ahead.
According to data from the VU Amsterdam, Indonesia usually emits an average of 2.1 megatons of carbon dioxide per day (while these numbers are 16 megatons for the USA and 29.3 for China). However, due to the recent disaster, Indonesia's daily emissions rose to 61 megatons on 14 October 2015.
Recent Indonesian Emissions Exceed Typical Daily Averages:
Thousands of people have developed respiratory infections due to the toxic haze, while - so far - 19 deaths (linked to the haze) have been confirmed.
Ironically, the government of Indonesia pledged to have cut its emissions by 29 percent by 2030 as part of a new UN deal on climate change.