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A selection of articles on peatlands & climate change

Sciencexpress, 24 January 2008: Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt
By Joseph Fargione, Jason Hill, David Tilman, Stephen Polasky, Peter Hawthorne.
Increasing energy use, climate change, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low-carbon fuels a high priority. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food-based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a ‘biofuel carbon debt’ by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions these biofuels provide by displacing fossil fuels. In contrast, biofuels made from waste biomass or from biomass grown on abandoned agricultural lands planted with perennials incur little or no carbon debt and offer immediate and sustained GHG advantages.
Click here for the article

Reuters, 1 Oct 2007: Summit-Deforestation needs to be in next climate pact
By Adhityani Arga, JAKARTA - Cutting emissions from deforestation will be key to curbing climate change and should be agreed upon in December's climate talks in Bali, a leading Indonesian forestry researcher said on Monday. The conference on the resort island is expected to initiate talks on clinching a new deal by 2009 to fight global warming.
Click here for the article

Reuters, Aug 27, 2007: Indonesia hopes to include peat in new climate deal
By Adhityani Arga, YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesia wants emission cuts from preserving its vast carbon-rich peatlands to be eligible for trade in a new deal on combating global warming at upcoming climate talks, a forestry official said on Monday.
Click here for the article

Aug 27, 2007 Peat bog destruction highlights major flaw in Kyoto Protocol, Behind the News by Tom Bell
The destruction of peat bogs in Indonesia, partly to grow supposedly "green" biofuels, releases more carbon dioxide every year than India or Russia and three times as much as Germany. During the summer dry season, when fires lit to clear the jungle for palm oil plantations sweep the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, the peat bogs can burn for months.
Click here for the article

Biofuelwatch, July 2007, South-East Asia's Peat fires and global warming. How serious is the destruction of South East Asia’s peat forests for the global climate?
At least 550 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in peat globally. This is the equivalent of about 75% of all the carbon in the atmosphere at present, or 70 years of fossil fuel emissions at current rates. Carbon in peat is released into the atmosphere through oxidation if the peat is drained and damaged, and also through fires, which are more common where peat has already been drained, where peat forests have been logged and degraded, and during droughts, which are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of global warming.
Click here for the article.

Reuters, 2 July 2007, Climate deals turn up heat in Indonesia's dark peatlands
By Gillian Murdoch, PALANGAKARAYA, Indonesia (Reuters) - It used to be malaria that gave people fevers in Indonesia's remote, mosquito-infested peatlands. Now it is carbon. Investors around the world are dreaming of the billions the festering carbon-rich bogs could bring in as the world battles global warming. Peat bogs are the new black gold, some say. Click here for the article

Associated Press, 27 March 2007, Energy Companies Rethink Palm Oil as Biofuel
By Arthur Max, AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Once, palm oil was seen as an ideal biofuel, a cheap alternative to petroleum that would fight global warming. But second thoughts are wracking the power industry. Can the fruit of the palm tree help save the planet -- or contribute to its destruction? Environmentalists have long warned that many plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, where 85 percent of commercial palm oil is grown, were planted on cleared rain forest, threatening the home of endangered animals like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.
Now, amid global efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, power companies have joined conservationists in calculating the carbon count of producing palm oil fuel -- and found the balance increasingly negative. A few companies have put plans on hold to switch to palm oil.
Click here for the article.

International Herald Tribune, 31 January 2007: 'Scientists are taking 2nd look at biofuels - Dutch efforts verge on nightmare' -by Elisabeth Rosenthal
"It was shocking and totally smashed all the good reasons we initially went into palm oil," said Alex Kaat, a spokesman for Wetlands, a conservation group. Biofuels, long a cornerstone of the quest for greener energy, may sometimes produce more harmful emissions than the fossil fuels they replace, scientific studies are finding.
As a result, politicians in many countries are rethinking the billions of dollars in subsidies that have indiscriminately supported the spread of all of these supposedly "eco- friendly" fuels, for use in power vehicles and factories. The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive, which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation fueled by biofuel in 2010, is now under review.
Click here to read the article

Al Jazeera documentary: Replanting Indonesia's 'lungs of the world' 03-Dec-2007
Indonesia may be hosting the world's largest-ever conference on climate change, but it has also being called the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The main culprit is deforestation, especially the clearing and burning of its peatlands. Step Vaessen reports on how the country is attempting to repair the damage.
Click here for the Al Jazeera documentary

IKON, Stille rampen
Documentary about the impact of the loss of the peatlands of Kalimantan on climate change. Dutch TV (in Dutch) IKON, Paul Rosenmöller, Stille rampen.

Channel 4, 19 february 2007, Doing more harm than good?
A special report on how the drive toward cleaner biofuels may be doing more harm than good to the environment. By Andrew Thomas.
Palm Oil is in great demand in Europe as it burns cleanly. But where it is produced - in Indonesia and Malaysia - the logging and deforestation means that huge amounts of CO2 are released to make this supposedly eco friendly fuel.European environment ministers have warned that all EU nations must back proposals to cut harmful emissions by 30% by 2020, or risk jeopardising the global effort to curb climate change. Ahead of a meeting in Brussels tomorrow, they called for all members to endorse the proposals outlined by the European Commission in its strategic energy review.However, a report seen by More4 News suggests that one major area of CO2 emissions has been ignored. And - in a drive to introduce 'clean' biofuels - First World countries may be inadvertently encouraging the production of CO2 in Asia. Andrew Thomas reports.
Click here to see full TV item.

BBC-world service, 12 Feb 2007: Smoking out the world's lungs
By Lucy Williamson, BBC News, Kalimantan
As you move in under the canopy of trees, clouds of butterflies dart into the path, and the sounds of insects cluster in the air. But this is no virgin forest. This is a 10-year-old project to rehabilitate an area destroyed by logging. Pak Alim is one of those involved. This project is important, he said, because it is perhaps the only research site in Central Kalimantan where the conditions of the rainforest have been reproduced. This is a peat forest - built on metres of thick, high carbon soil. Peat is important because of its ability to process greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Pak Alim's favourite name for them is "the lungs of the world". But those lungs are shrinking.
Click here to read the article

International Herald Tribune, 8 July 2007, Indonesia seeks aid on carbon
By Ying Lou and Yanping Li, Bloomberg News - Indonesia, the third-most-populous country in Asia, called for international help to prevent the drainage of local swamps that store carbon, potentially allowing the country to sell billions of emission credits. Indonesia is seeking partners to help halt the release of carbon dioxide from tropical swamps known as peatlands, as its economy develops, said Susanna Tol, who attended the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Paris on behalf of Wetlands International, a government-backed lobby group.

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