In Indonesia, a Worrying Silence on Climate Change

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Dive into the limpid waters off Indonesia’s resort island of Bali and you’ll spot the beginnings of an environmental success story. Older reefs are recovering from the devastating coral bleaching of 1998 and 2009. New corals are now taking hold. On shore, local fishermen also see improvement. There are, at long last, more and bigger fish. It’s been a collaborative effort to reach this point. My organization, Reef Check, has worked with village heads, tour operators, local government, other NGOs and fishermen to try to conserve Indonesia’s coral reefs and the marine life and livelihoods they support.

Climate change and political inaction could doom these early successes, however. And, as Indonesia negotiates an election year, climate change is nowhere on the political agenda.

Recent reports from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made the situation clear: climate change is happening at an alarming rate, human behavior is largely to blame and if left unchecked, it poses a very real threat. Many will suffer, but those at greatest risk are communities living in low-lying coastal areas and on small islands. Ocean acidification, warmer sea temperatures, extreme weather and rising sea levels increase the chance of storm surges, coastal flooding and reduced fish stocks.

That’s bad news for Indonesia…

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