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  • Published: Jul 8th, 2009
  • Category: Asia
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El Nino threatens surge in forest CO2 emissions


| Sourced From Carbonpositive.net |

Greenhouse emissions from the burning of Asian tropical forests are set to spiral over the next couple of years if a predicted El Nino weather pattern sets in, carbon scientists warn.

The El Nino/La Nina cycle sees the waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean vary in temperature, causing weather changes from Asia to the Americas. An El Nino event brings drought to South-East Asia and Australia and high rainfall and intense storms to Central and South America.

Past El Ninos have brought massive burning of forests in South-East Asia as land users find the conditions ripe for fire-clearing, according to the Global Carbon Project (GCP), a scientific project to develop a more complete picture of the global carbon cycle and the impacts of human activity on its natural processes.

Around 13 million hectares of forest land is cleared every year on average, much of it in tropical Asia to create more agricultural land.

The GCP says that an intense El Nino in 1997 and 1998 saw forest fires in South-East Asia release between 3 and 9 billion tonnes of CO2, much of it in Indonesia.
This compares to average annual emissions from forest fires across the region of less than 500 million tonnes a year between 2000 and 2006.

The Asian fires during the late-90s El Nino are estimated to have produced emissions equivalent to between 15 and 40 per cent of total world fossil fuel emissions. They could also explain a spike in global temperatures at the time that saw 1998 become the hottest year on record.

Now, after two years or so of La Nina, meteorologists say a new El Nino event is imminent, if it hasnt already begun.

“I think the next El Nino we have here in South-East Asia is going to be a big one in terms of emissions,” the GCPs Pep Canadell told Reuters. “People are waiting for appropriate conditions to get rid of the forests, so the drier the El Nino the more incentive there is for people to take advantage of those unique conditions,” he said.

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