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Forest clearing in Asia fuels global warming

December 8, 2008 |  2:00 pm

Burning to clear forest land in equatorial Asia can pump massive amounts of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a new study.

Researchers examining climate and fire data found that the burning increases during drought. In 2006, carbon emissions from deforestation in Borneo, Sumatra and New Guinea were 30 times greater than in 2000, which was wetter.

"Land managers respond to the drought by using fire to clear more land," said James Randerson, a climate scientist at UC Irvine and co-author of the study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "In dry years, they burn deeper into the forest, which in turn releases more carbon dioxide."

Citing the findings, he suggested that limits on deforestation should be an important part of future climate agreements.

--Bettina Boxall