Indonesian province gets dubious honor for emissions

Congrats to Riau, Sumatra, in the competition to screw up the environment.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper

I was poring through a university research paper Tuesday afternoon on the connection between the use of corn-based ethanol in the U.S. and greenhouse gas levels. That was just a grim appetizer for the big eco-news du jour later in the afternoon.

Turns out that Riau, Sumatra, a province in Indonesia, has the dubious honor of producing more average annual greenhouse gas emissions "from deforestation, forest degradation, peat decomposition, and peat fires between 1990 and 2007" than does the Netherlands. That's due to the local practice of supplying global paper giants and palm oil plantation with raw materials processed from forests and peat swamps.

Because of the ongoing forest clearance projects in areas with deep peat soils, experts warn that the region's carbon emissions will likely climb. (In the last quarter century, companies working in the province have cleared about 10.5 million acres of tropical forests and peat swamp.)

The report was jointly published under the auspices of Hokkaido University, the World Wildlife Fund, and Remote Sensing Solutions GmbH.

The researchers painted a sober picture of the changes wrought by deforestation. Here's the link to the full report (PDF).