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Smoke haze affecting neighbouring countries to Sumatra and Borneo islands

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Smoke haze affecting neighbouring countries to Sumatra and Borneo islands | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Malaysia’s Kuching on Borneo this week

“Hundreds of schools shut as forest-fire haze blankets SE Asia.”

Huge fires are raging across vast swathes of Indonesia’s rainforests – some of the world’s biggest – with toxic smog shutting hundreds of schools. Massive jungle areas in Sumatra and Borneo island are ablaze as thousands of personnel battle to quell the fires, frequently started to clear land for crop plantations.

In Indonesia the number of hotspots – areas at risk of fires – has soared in parts, including on Borneo which the country shares with Malaysia and Brunei. Air quality has dropped to “unhealthy” levels in and around KL, according to the government’s air pollutant index, and the skyline has been shrouded in thick smog, while haze also hung over Singapore.

In southern Thailand there has also been alarm as the smoke haze has started to build this week. Residents are being advised to stay indoors ar wear face-masks outside as a precaution. The smell of burning foliage filled the air, and residents were suffering respiratory problems and complaining of itchy and sore eyes.

Around 400 schools were closed Tuesday in nine districts of Sarawak state on Borneo, with more than 150,000 students affected, according to the local education department.

In neighbouring Indonesia’s Jambi province, on Sumatra, some kindergartens will be closed until Friday, while elementary and junior high schools are also temporarily shut, according to local authorities, who did not give exact numbers.

Jambi mayor Syarif Fasha urged residents to wear face masks while Malaysia’s national disaster management agency said it has secured half a million masks, which will be sent to the Sarawak state disaster committee.

On Monday, Malaysia said it was preparing to carry out cloud seeding to induce rain and clear the air by releasing certain chemicals into the clouds – although some experts have questioned its efficacy.

Indonesian authorities have deployed thousands of extra personnel since last month to prevent a repeat of 2015 fires, which were the worst for two decades, choking the region in haze for weeks and setting off a diplomatic spat.

Under pressure from neighbours, Indonesian leader Joko Widodo last month warned that officials would be sacked if they failed to stamp out forest fires.

The number of hotspots with medium-to-high potential to break out in blazes soared nearly sevenfold to 6,312 over a four-day period this month, according to Indonesia’s national disaster agency.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

Smoke haze affecting neighbouring countries to Sumatra and Borneo islands | News by The Thaiger

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Environment

Our oceans are key to fighting climate change

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Our oceans are key to fighting climate change | The Thaiger

“There are at least three types of actions humans can take to help repair the damage and ensure that oceans don’t turn from friend to foe.”

Humanity must heal oceans made sick by climate change and pollution to protect marine life and to save itself, experts warned days before the release of a major UN report.

By absorbing a quarter of manmade CO2 and soaking up more than 90% of the heat generated by greenhouse gases, oceans keep the population alive – but at a terrible cost, according to a draft of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) assessment.

Our seas have grown acidic, potentially undermining their capacity to draw down CO2. Warmer surface water has expanded the force and range of deadly tropical storms. Marine heatwaves are wiping out coral reefs, and accelerating the melt-off of glaciers and ice sheets driving sea level rise.

Dan Laffoley, strategic lead for ocean protection at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, quoted fire and brimstone from The Bible.

“The last book of the Bible talks about the four horseman of the Apocalypse.”

“For the oceans, the lead horseman is surface warming. The three others are ocean heating, loss of oxygen and acidification.”

There are at least three types of actions humans can take to help repair the damage and ensure that oceans don’t turn from friend to foe, scientists say.

1. Restoration, protection

Less than seven percent of oceans, which cover 70%t of Earth’s surface, benefit from some form of regional or national protection, often with minimal enforcement. Ocean advocates and experts say the area safeguarded must be vastly expanded.

“We need to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030,” said Lisa Speer, director of the international oceans program at the National Resources Defense Council in Washington D.C.

“This cannot be achieved without a high seas agreement.”

UN negotiations for a treaty to regulate exploitation of the high seas – waters beyond national jurisdiction covering nearly half the planet – began last fall, and could take years to complete.

At the same time, regions not included in marine parks or conservation areas “must be managed in a cautious and durable way,” Tom Dillon, Vice President of Pew Charitable Trust, told AFP.

Restoring coastal mangroves and seagrass meadows, meanwhile, would draw down CO2 emissions, and shield coastal communities from storm surges as a bonus.

These “blue carbon” ecosystems could potentially stock just under a billion tonnes of CO2 per year, about two percent of current emissions, according to the UN report.

2. Renewable engird

Off-shore and ocean-based renewable energy – including wind, wave, tidal, currents and solar – could meet a significant slice of future energy demand, numerous studies have shown. Such schemes are mostly experimental and thus costly per unit of energy generated, but economies-of-scale are possible.

Floating wind farms, for example, fuelled by high wind speed over the open ocean could eventually generate more electricity than those on land, Carnegie Institution for Science researchers reported in PNAS.

In winter, North Atlantic wind farms “could provide sufficient energy to meet all of civilisation’s current needs,” the authors said.

“That’s a bit of fantasy, but it makes the point that these technologies have not been sufficiently developed,” said Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a senior scientist at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research.

There are several ready to be scaled up, he said.

3. Geoengineering

The failure of humanity to draw down planet-warming greenhouse gases, which continue to rise year-on-year, has opened the door to other ideas once thought risky or far-fetched, such as injecting particles into the upper atmosphere to deflect the Sun’s radiation.

Some geoengineering schemes to cool Earth’s surface or reduce CO2 are ocean-based.

One that has been tested with inconclusive results involves sowing the open ocean with iron to create phytoplankton colonies that absorb CO2 as they photosynthesise. When the tiny creatures die, they drag the CO2 into the inky depths.

Another scheme would brighten mirror-like marine clouds to reflect sunlight back into space. Spreading long-lasting white foam across vast expanses of open water would, in theory, have the same effect.

Scientists from Princeton and Beijing Normal University recently costed a plan to build an underwater barrier in front of an Antarctic glacier the size of England to help prevent warm ocean water from eroding its underbelly, thus preventing the glacier from slipping into the sea.

The price tag was several hundred billion dollars.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Environment

Ban of 3 herbicides agreed, with conditions

May Taylor

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Ban of 3 herbicides agreed, with conditions | The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.asiaone.com

Thai PBS World reports that Thailand’s National Hazardous Substances Committee says it will agree to banning paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos, provided that the alternatives proposed are effective, affordable for farmers, and less hazardous.

Committee chairman Apijin Chotikasathien gave the undertaking yesterday, while giving the Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives 60 days to come up with alternatives.

Mr Apijin says the Agricultural Technique Department has always said there are no alternatives that meet the requirements outlined by the committee.

The committee also notes the need to build understanding between the state and those who currently import the hazardous herbicides, as well as farmers and other consumers about the dangers of the 3 weed killers.

Prior to the committee meeting, it’s understood that members of the Rak Mae Khlong voluntary network offered moral support to committee members, in the hope that use of the herbicides would continue to be allowed.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Environment

Thai Minister Manunya a lone voice to have 3 herbicides banned

The Thaiger

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Thai Minister Manunya a lone voice to have 3 herbicides banned | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Thaiger

Deputy Agriculture Minister Manunya Thaiseth (the OTHER deputy, not the embattled Thannamat Prompeo) is complaining that she appears to be a lone voice amongst the bureaucrats and politicians to have three toxic agricultural chemicals – paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos – banned within this year, as promised.

She says that she’s not receiving any cooperation from the Agricultural Chemicals Control Office of the Agricultural Technique Department. They’re not providing information about the inventories of the three herbicides held in warehouses throughout the country and has had to research the information by other means.

Asked about the conspicuous silence from Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit on the matter, Ms. Manunya said “Don’t you have pity for me for having to work alone?  Even some documents (about inventories of the three chemicals), I have to find them myself despite being a minister,” according to the Thai PBS World article.

The decision to ban the three herbicides rests with the 29 member Toxic Substances Committee under the jurisdiction of the Industry Ministry.

The deputy agriculture minister from the Bhumjaithai party says it was her job to submit her proposal for the ban to the Toxic Substances Committee, adding that it was beyond her authority to make the decision.

She said that she would like the vote by the committee to be held in the open, not behind closed doors, because this is an important issue that affects a lot of people.

“For the people who make the decision, if they want to keep the three toxic chemicals, they should know why and must be ready to explain why. We must be ready to accept the consequences of their decision.”

In the last meeting of the Toxic Substances Committee, the committee voted by 16to 5 in favour of continued use of the three herbicides, with the rest of the committee members being absent or abstaining from the vote.

Consumer groups, social media and the broader community have been putting pressure on the government to ban the herbicides, citing numerous studies reporting the health hazards posed by them.  They also accused the committee of siding with big business by refusing to ban the substances.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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