10/18/2012

Yale University

Palm oil massive source of carbon dioxide

Expanding production of palm oil, a common ingredient in processed foods, soaps and personal care products, is driving rainforest destruction and massive carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new study by Yale and Stanford researchers.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that deforestation for the development of oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo is becoming a globally significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

Plantation expansion is projected to pump more than 558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2020, an amount greater than all of Canada's current fossil fuel emissions.

Indonesia is the leading producer of palm oil and palm kernel oil, which together account for more than 30 percent of the world's vegetable oil use and can be used for biodiesel. Most of Indonesia's oil palm plantation expansion is occurring on the island of Borneo, also known as Kalimantan, which occupies a land area nearly the size California and Florida combined. Plantation leases, covering 32 percent of Kalimantan's lowlands outside of protected areas, represent a major land bank that is slated for development over the next decade, according to the study.

In 2010 alone, land-clearing for oil palm plantations in Kalimantan emitted more than 140 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, an amount equivalent to annual emissions from 28 million vehicles.

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