Says Indonesia must prepare now for climate change
31 Oct 2007: As Indonesia’s forests assume an increasingly significant position in the global fight against climate change, it is fitting this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is shared, in part, by an Indonesian scientist dedicated to ensuring his country’s forests are managed sustainably.
Dr Daniel Murdiyarso – a climatologist at the Bogor-based Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) – is a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was recently awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, alongside US global warming crusader and former Vice President Al Gore.
Seemingly as humble as he is committed, Dr Murdiyarso was quick to deflect any attention to his many colleagues, stating simply that he is “proud of being one of thousands who contribute”.
Dr Murdiyarso’s place within the IPCC, made up of over 3000 scientists from around the world, could be seen as symbolic of the changing face of Indonesia and the increasing environmental conscience that is emerging throughout the nation.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that climate change is happening here and now, and the work of the IPCC has gone a long way towards establishing this.’ Dr Murdiyarso said. “It’s up to us all now to do something about it. If not, we face unparalleled environmental, social and economic consequences.
“If Indonesia does not start adapting to climate change now, global warming will have a devastating impact on Indonesia. Jakarta is already being flooded on a more regular basis.
“It’s predicted forest fires will increase as climate change dries out the southern areas of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, as well as Java and Bali. This will ruin the environment that so many people live in and depend on for their livelihoods,” Murdiyarso said.
Pak Daniel said it is an honour to play even a small part in the IPCC’s success, as he believes an award as significant as the Nobel Prize helps increase not only people’s awareness of climate change, but also people’s commitment do something about it.
“Personally, it’s a huge thrill to be part of something as significant as a Nobel Prize, and to realise that all of our hard work is not going unnoticed. If this can contribute in some way towards inspiring practical action, then it means far more than merely the renown,” he said.
Murdiyarso works closely with Dr Markku Kanninen, CIFOR’s Director for Environmental Services and Sustainable Use of Forests Program, who has also contributed to the work of the IPCC. Amongst many other achievements, Dr Kanninen was the editor of a pioneering IPCC book on the global assessment of carbon stocks in forests, published in 1993.
In its announcement the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised both the IPCC and Mr Gore for “their efforts to build up and disseminate a greater knowledge about man-made climate change”, recognising that these efforts “appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby reduce the future threat to the security of mankind”.
Frances Seymour, CIFOR’s Director General, echoed these sentiments. “I’m delighted that Daniel and Markku’s hard work has been recognised in such a way, while I’m also extremely proud that CIFOR is part of something that promises to change the world,” Seymour said.
“There’s been a lot of crucial scientific work going on for quite some time now on the issue of climate change, so it’s been great to see someone like Al Gore take the issue to the mainstream and stimulate widespread debate. While climate change has long been important to our scientists, now it’s important to our politicians, our corporate leaders, our teachers and our children. That’s a good thing,” Seymour said.
There is little doubt that the IPCC and Mr Gore have inspired unprecedented momentum on the climate change challenge in 2007. It is now hoped that this momentum will be translated into decisive, integrated strategies at the 13th Annual Conference of Parties (COP), to be held in Bali in December.
CIFOR and its partners are organising the first ever Forest Day event in Bali to coincide with the conference. Forest Day will bring together some of the world’s leading figures and organisations involved in the global forest and climate debate.
Climate Change and Indonesia
Future climate change scenarios indicate that by 2080 parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan may be 10-30% wetter during the monsoon. On the other hand, Java and Bali may be drier by 15%.
Seasonal variations and extreme weather events like El Niño are likely to be more severe and significantly increase the risk of forest fires during Indonesia’s dry seasons.
Climate change is also likely to increase the risk of more frequent forest fires in Indonesia’s southern regions where forests are generally drier, including the southern areas of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, as well as Java and Bali.
CIFOR is concerned that forest fires have severe socio-economic consequence as illustrated by recent research showing Indonesia’s devastating fires of 1997-98 caused estimated economic losses of US$ 9 billion.
Impacts resulting from forests fires enhanced by climate change include:
- Health: Forest fires release toxic gases like carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons that can cause severe respiratory illnesses. Higher rainfall and flooding will encourage a wider-distribution of water-borne diseases. Higher tropical temperatures may increase the incidence of food-borne diseases.
- Livelihoods: Increasing prevalence and intensity of fires will harm the many communities who rely heavily on forests to provide their timber and non timber needs, and to keep their water clean.
- Biodiversity loss: Fires directly eliminate plants and animals, as well as indirectly by degrading forest habitat. The 1997-1998 fires reduced Borneo’s orangutan population by one-third.
- Forestry and agriculture: Natural and man-made fires have destroyed large areas of natural commercial forests as well as agricultural crops, such as pulp wood and oil palm plantations.
- Tourism: Fires and its smoke haze discourage tourists from visiting forested areas. Fires can destroy forests with tourism potential.
- Transportation: Haze from fires affects city traffic, sea transportation. Low visibility caused by forest fires has in the past been linked to airplane and boat crashes.
- GHG emissions: Fires are the most effective means to oxidize biomass into carbon dioxide (CO2) and other trace gases. Indonesian 1997/1998 fires resulted more than half of the global CO2 annual growth.