As President Obama and Indonesian President Joko Widodo meet today, climate change will be high on their agenda. A related, unexpected issue should also be on their radar: massive forest and land fires that have turned into a national, regional, and now global crisis for the new Indonesian administration.
The fires in Indonesia are truly out of control, having spiked in recent weeks to their highest levels in years. More than 300,000 Indonesians have sought medical help for respiratory illnesses linked to the choking haze. Pollution levels are up to five times above what the World Health Organization considers to be hazardous levels. Schools and airports have been closed. The Indonesian government has already spent about $200 million to fight the fires and has recently accepted help from Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. Yet this year’s fires will likely keep burning for at least another month. The total economic costs may exceed $14 billion.
Further, the fires, which are largely burning on high-carbon peatland, have caused a spike in greenhouse gas emissions. New analysis finds several days recently where Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions from fires surpassed... Read more