National

Riau BMKG says global warming
is here

Irregular rain patterns, more thunderstorms and higher temperatures are heralding the advent of global warming that Riau is now experiencing, says the provincial Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

“Our analysis over the past 25 years, between 1980 and 2005, shows that Riau has experienced a rise in the minimum temperature, from 21.5 to 23.5 degrees Celsius, as well as irregularities in rainfall patterns in the past five years,” BMKG head Blucher Doloksaribu said Monday at a press conference in Jakarta.

Increases in the minimum temperature are closely related to the greenhouse effect. The temperature is measured when there is no direct solar radiation, according to the BMKG.

Blucher also pointed out the significant irregularities in rainfall of more than 100 millimeters in the area over the past 20 years.

“There were four rains of this kind between 1986 and 1990, three between 1991 and 1995, seven between 1996 and 2000, and 12 between 2001 and 2005,” he said.

Such showers are not common in Indonesia, he said.

“For this kind of rainfall, many large cumulonimbus clouds are needed, and clouds of this type are linked to higher temperatures.”

Riau has also seen an increase in high temperatures, Blucher went on. At the height of haze caused by forest fires between May 1 and June 11 this year, high temperatures in Riau ranged from 33.2 to 34 degrees, peaking at 36 degrees on two days.

“Despite May and June being the hottest months in year in the region, we’ve never gone above 33 degrees Celsius,” he said.

“The smoke from forest fires caused by deforestation helped push the temperature higher.”

Blucher added the more frequent and unpredictable heavy showers had directly impacted agriculture, with farmers unable to predict the weather, thus affecting harvests.

“Irrigation systems can no longer retain rain water as previously; farmers will experience more failed harvests,” he said.

He added the only easy way to counter this was to plant more trees.

“Only trees can absorb the carbon dioxide in the air,” he said.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said, “Deforestation is the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect in the country, whose gas emissions are the third-highest in the world.”

Data from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shows there are currently 2,643 hotspots nationwide. Many of these forest fires are set illegally to clear-cut forests for oil palm or pulp and paper plantations, Bustar said.

Deforestation occurs all over the country, but the condition in Riau is worse because it has the deepest peatlands in the world, he said.

Peatlands are rich in CO2. Setting them on fire releases huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

“Deforestation also leads to community violence,” Bustar said.

Also at the press conference was National Commission on Human Rights member Nurkholis, who revealed 5 percent of the 4,900 cases reported to the commission last year were related to conflicts between communities and corporations in plantation areas.

Last April, Greenpeace questioned the new pulpwood concessions for 2009-2014 granted by the Forestry Ministry to companies suspected of illegal logging.

In January, the government issued a policy extending the pulp and paper industry’s period to use natural forest timber until 2014, while in March, the ministry, through a decree, took over the authority to issue logging permits from the Riau administration. (iwp)

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