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The large-scale forest destruction is causing a significant increase in the concentration of the greenhouse gas CO2 by combustion or decomposition of large quantities of organic matter. This is especially true for the peat forests in the lowlands; the peat subsurface consists of billions of tons of undecomposed plant material. This is why Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of CO2 after the US and China despite its relatively low industrialization.

Climate change is accelerated by the effects of the cultivation of oil palms. The emission of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from the plantation soils by far exceeds the savings through plant growth. Carbon dioxide is released in the following processes through the plantation soils:

• eforestation and forest fires for the gaining of cultivated land.
• Palm oil is grown on peat soil in large areas. The necessary drainage of the peat-soil for the cultivation of palm oil releases tons of CO2. (In peat soil the decomposed biomass is low and high amounts of CO2 remain stored, so long as it does not come into contact with air. If it is drained, the biomass oxidises and the stored CO2 is released through decomposition processes.)
• Connecting peat lands are degraded and damaged by the drainage of part of the bog surface over large areas.
• The drainage of the bog body also leads to an increased risk of fire. These fires are difficult to extinguish and lead to huge CO2 emissions, air pollution and ill health.
• Planned fires on peat soils get out of control and are hard to contain due to the lack of fire fighting aircraft. In addition, fires spread through the porous structure of the peat, also deep down, and break out again elsewhere, or continue to burn underground.

With the cultivation of 100,000 hectares, an output of 3 million tons of CO2 is to be expected before a single fruit is harvested.

(Source: Wolfgang Hees et al. (eds.): Volle Tanks – leere Teller. Der Preis für Agrokraftstoffe: Hunger, Vertreibung, Umweltzerstörung. 2007. p. 104 (Full tanks – empty plates. The price for agrofuels:Hunger, displacement, environmental degradation))

The company Sinar Mas alone has concessions on Sumatra that would cause 2.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the conversion to palm oil plantations over 150 years – just these concessions would involve emitting more than twice as much as all of Germany's emissions in a year. (Source: Greenpeace:. How Sinar Mas is pulping the planet. 2010. p. 7)

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