Most people are well aware of the fact that some processed foods, soaps and personal care products list palm oil as one of their ingredients. However, there are few who know about the ecological footprint of the oil palm industry.
The journal Nature Climate Change has recently seen the publication of a new study carried out by researchers working with the Standford and Yale universities, whose main goal is that of drawing attention with respect to how the planned expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo will translate into significant amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.
As the specialists who looked into this issue explain, the CO2 released while cutting down forests in order to accommodate for new oil palm plantations will amount to about 558 million metric tons. Interestingly enough, these figures are for the year 2020 alone.
explains that, for the time being, Indonesia is a major contributor to the global levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and that the country first and foremost owes its status to its rapid loss of carbon-rich forests.
In turn, this rapid loss of forests has to be linked to the expansion of the palm oil industry, which seems to have really taken a liking to the island of Borneo.
“Despite contentious debate over the types and uses of lands slated for oil palm plantations, the sector has grown rapidly over the past 20 years,” says Lisa M. Curran, professor of ecological anthropology.
Furthermore, “These plantation leases are an unprecedented 'grand-scale experiment' replacing forests with exotic palm monocultures. We may see tipping points in forest conversion where critical biophysical functions are disrupted, leaving the region increasingly vulnerable to droughts, fires and floods.”
It is hoped that the findings of this new study will help push for sustainability in the global palm oil industry, and that Indonesia will agree to rethink its oil palm plantation leases.