What does Indonesia and Antarctica have in Common?

The world’s increasing appetite for palm oil has led to illegal practices by corporations in Indonesia. One company is now under investigation for clearing tens of thousands of acres of forest in Borneo without the proper license. This has hampered the pledge of the Indonesian government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by saving rainforests. Believe it or not, there was a time – admittedly 34-56 million years ago – which saw the currently frigid Antarctica covered in tropical rainforest. Read more

Will Indonesia Protect Rainforests from Deforestation?

By Adele Peters for RevModo (12 July 2012):

Deep in the forests of Borneo, a palm oil corporation is under investigation for illegal deforestation. It’s a critical test for the government of Indonesia, which has made major commitments to protect its endangered rainforests.

The palm oil company, PT Suryamas Cipta Perkasa (“PTSCP”), was given preliminary approval for a large palm plantation six years ago. That should have been the beginning of a long environmental licensing progress. But PTSCP didn’t follow those steps, and instead started clearing tens of thousands of acres of forest.

International companies like Cargill and Bunge, which source palm oil and have made commitments to purchase sustainability grown oil, began to investigate. So did conservation groups, and eventually, the Indonesian government.

The government has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by saving rainforests. The country has the world’s third-largest area of tropical rainforest. If successful in cutting emissions, Indonesia will receive $1 billion from Norway. But the government is also facing pressure as the world’s leading producer of palm oil, and plans to double output in the face of rising global demand.

The current case against PTSCP is investigating eight suspected environmental violations, and could result in jail time and fines for the company. If PTSCP is sanctioned, it will also be an important signal to other palm oil producers that Indonesia is taking environmental protection seriously.

Watch this space!

By Michael d’Estries in RevModo (02 August 2012):

Drilling of the seabed off Antarctica has revealed evidence of a rainforest that once flourished on the continent some 52 million years ago.

Scientists studying sediment cores discovered fossilized pollen that could only have come from a “near-tropical” forest covering the continent in the Eocene period, 34-56 million years ago. According to Australian scientist Kevin Walsh, analysis of “temperature-sensitive molecules” contained in the pollen showed the average temperature be near 68 degrees F.

There were forests existing on the land, there wouldn’t have been any ice, it would have been very warm,” Welsh told AFP of the study, published in the journal Nature. ”It’s quite surprising, because obviously our image of Antarctica is that it’s very cold and full of ice.”

Today, the average temperature of Antarctica is roughly -58 degrees F. Scientists say that during the Eocene period, even with polar darkness, the Antarctica region remained frost-free.

During this warm period, estimates are that carbon dioxide levels reached between 992 to a couple thousand parts per million in Antarctica. CO2 levels today are estimated to be at about 395 ppm on the continent.

“Our work carries a sobering message,” Dr James Bendle, one of the authors of the study, told The Independent. “Carbon dioxide levels are rising rapidly through human combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation.

“Atmospherically speaking we are heading rapidly back in time towards the Eocene.”

The authors concluded that, without drastic changes, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere last seen during the Eocene could be reached again in only a few hundred years.

“We haven’t reached Eocene levels yet but we are increasing at a rate faster than any time in Earth’s history,” said Bendle.

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Source: www.revmodo.com

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