Fires in the Amazon forest have hardly been contained, and now Indonesia’s forests are burning, too.
The region has been blanketed in smog for days as fires started to clear agricultural land have gone out of control. The situation has been worsened by dry weather.
The consequences are profound and far-reaching. Smog has reached Malaysia and fueled concerns in Singapore. Most importantly, the fires weaken the earth anew in its fight against climate change. Forests suck carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—out of the air. Worse, the fires release even more carbon dioxide, fueling a vicious cycle.
Over at the Amazon, efforts to contain the fire have been hampered by politics despite the plea of those whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by the conflagration. Indonesia has worked hard at enforcing stricter rules against those who burn illegally, but apparently these efforts have not been enough.
With these fires, prospects for keeping global temperatures no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels becomes even more bleak. Keeping the warming below these safe levels is the only way the world can prevent climate-induced catastrophe in just a few decades.
Indonesians are said to be praying in earnest for rain to come and put out the fires naturally. Then again, prayers alone will not bring deliverance to a largely man-made problem. Large-scale, sustained, man-made solutions are needed—not in the next few years, not in any next administration or generation, but now.