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Protecting the Climate, Saving the Earth

Mountainous forests of northern Bandung city (Photo: Burung Indonesia)

As Earth Day approaches, we are facing the global COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. A number of related news are on headlines, namely forest fires in Sumatra and Australia and the surface rising of northern Javan sea, as quoted from the BBC Indonesia page, which causes residents to lose their homes. This phenomenon is not entirely natural, but it’s influenced by climate change. Climate change is caused by high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth's atmosphere which then produces the greenhouse effect. The sun's heat is trapped in the atmosphere and raises the earth's temperature.

The global industries such as metal manufacture and aviation are one of the contributors to the emergence of the greenhouse effect. Industry requires energy from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are also used by humans in their daily activities such as transportation and household needs. The development of industry is followed by the need for land so that land clearings are inevitable, in particular in industrial centres. Land clearing is also happening in forests around the world.

Some of the raw materials for industries, for example the palm oil and rubber processing industries, are harvested from plantations. The rising demand for these two commodities has further encouraged the expansion of plantation areas by converting the function of forest areas. The massive conversion of forests to estates has an impact on the loss of animal habitat, including birds. Not only losing homes, the animals are also losing their food sources due to ecological damages. The loss of vegetation also affects the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and causes a clean water crisis. In addition to being a habitat for animals, trees in the forest serve as carbon sinks on Earth.

Other human activities that contribute greatly to the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere are agriculture and animal husbandry, such as cattle farming and vegetable terracing farming. These important sectors of food provide large contributions to carbon emissions, added by human’s daily activities such as transportation, long travels and electrical consumption. BBC reported Indonesia as one of largest carbon emitters is 558 megatons of CO2 per year. Producing 558 megatons of CO2 per year, Indonesia ranks on the BBC's list of the largest carbon emitting countries.

Another important thing that has a big impact on carbon emissions is non-environmental policies, because it affects the governance system. If a country's policies are in favour of the environment, carbon emissions can be reduced. In recent years, the earth's temperature has continued to increase so that the IPCC makes recommendations to keep the increase in earth's temperature below 2°C. If we fail, major disasters such as rising sea levels due to melting polar ice caps, severe droughts, extreme storms, and heat waves that destroy life on earth can no longer be avoided.

Even though we are currently facing a climate crisis, we can still strive for improvement. The global COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently provided us with an example of the slowdown in human activities, especially in the economic sector, impacting the earth’s condition. Since the emergence of this virus in Wuhan, China, which then spread throughout the world, the country's leaders have imposed regional restrictions. Human activities have changed drastically from face-to-face meetings to online meetings, cancellation of outdoor events to online concerts. These responses give us some low-carbon-emission alternatives.

Both American and European space agencies reported that the concentration of nitrogen in the atmosphere has decreased since the region's restriction policy was implemented. While many flights have been temporarily suspended and industrial activity has seen a reduction, satellite monitoring reports cleaner air conditions.

From the pandemic we have learned to minimize our carbon footprint by reducing activities that require burning fossil fuels and optimizing online technology. We can also alter our diets. Choosing foods with a small carbon footprint is certainly a choice that supports reducing carbon emissions.

Another effort is to practice sustainable principles in land use on settlements, agriculture, animal husbandry, and plantations. Reforestation can pose a big agenda to restore forest conditions to ensure carbon sink. So that these steps can be carried out in a sustainable manner and have a greater impact, we can encourage the government to make more policies that are environmentally friendly. To implement these steps in a sustainable manner and have a greater impact, we can encourage the government to release more environmentally friendly policies.

Finally, happy Earth Day!