Global Warming in Southeast Asia

These pictures were taken during my recent trip to Malaysia and Indonesia via Sydney and Singapore. They document the everyday realities of drivers of global greenhouse gas emissions in the fastest growing economic sector, Asia.


Motorbike traffic in Jakarta. Jakarta, with a population of 10 million, suffers from extreme air pollution, driven by automobile emissions and congestion, and deforestation for palm oil plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan.


Motorbike parking common in shops all over Jakarta. Jakarta’s roads are congested as new members of the middle class are able to afford vehicular transportation in congested Indonesia. However, it is nearly the only option for urban mobility, given that taxis are on average, expensive, and public transportation is woefully inadequate.


Palm oil plantations as seen en route from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta. These plantations dot the entire Malaysian landscape, as it single-handedly accounts for nearly half of the world’s insatiable demand for cheap palm oil.


Palm oil plantations as seen en route from the Kuala Lumpur Airport to the city centre. Deforestation, which accounts for a quarter of global carbon emissions, is led by the rapid expansion of such palm oil plantations.


Morning haze in Jakarta. Shanty towns are prevalent throughout the major metropolitan areas in Southeast Asia, as traditionally agrarian peoples are lured to cities for salary increases. This is one factor that drives high rates of urban sprawl.


Singapore is arguably the financial capital of Asia. Nearly all of the major agribusiness corporations–which produce palm oil–are headquartered here. Still, Singapore’s geographical location does not render it immune from transboundary pollution, water scarcity and a host of natural disasters that have prompted the government to make them matters of national security.