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Criticality, or crisis of adaptation?

The contribution of shifting cultivation, both in the past and now, to environmental degradation is smaller than that of the modern timber industry, but it is a contribution none the less. It is desirable that sustainable resource management more capable of coping with a range of demographic and economic conditions be devised, and applied. The trends toward forms of complex agro-forestry, noted in several places above, are encouraging, and so are the elements of semi-permanent cultivation already forming part of several agroecosystems in Borneo. It is to be hoped that these, rather than culturally undiscriminating systems of well laid out treecropping, can be adopted in a climate - internationally, more than nationally of growing awareness of the rights and aspirations of national minorities. Further, a need exists to appreciate better the considerable diversity of natural environment in the forests, especially in regard to soils. Planning of the future is beginning to take place in consultation with at least some indigenous groups, who have awareness of these variables. There is, however, a very long way to go; contempt for the "primitives" and their ways is very far from dead.

If the present highly variable situation among the forest people evolves, over the coming decade, into a situation of widespread criticality both for themselves and for the forest lands, it will be only partly from internal causes. Shifting cultivation, as Lian (1987,1993) repeatedly insists, is not itself central to the culture of the forest peoples. What is central is their need for rice, for goods obtainable by trade or wages, and for access to these under their own control. Forest people are certainly capable of making ecologically damaging changes to their production system but, if given security and respect, they are far more likely to make sensible and more sustainable adaptations. The greatest threat is a continuation of past neglect of their right to a distinctive place in the two national societies, and of pressures to assimilate them forcibly into the majority while taking control of their resources for exploitative gain. In Indonesia and Malaysia, as in Thailand, Viet Nam, and the Philippines also, there is a small but encouraging trend toward a new and more participatory approach, but it will have to develop fast, and work its way through a formidable set of institutional, ethical, and commercial barriers, if an endangerment approaching criticality is to be avoided. Ten years hence we shall either see the forest people participating in the development of their own region, along with others, or else see them truly reduced to the status of an impoverished and abused minority. They will adapt even to this, but so much more could be achieved if their rights are respected and their cooperation secured by policies of a different sort from those that have prevailed almost to the present day.


1. Christine Padoch, New York Botanical Garden, has been generous with information toward this chapter, and with helpful comment on an earlier drain.

2. The terms "shifting cultivation," "slash-and-burn," and "swidden farming" are synonymous in most of the literature. "Swidden," derived from an old north European word for a burnt field, is widely accepted. However, not all shifting simply slash and burn, and not all fields are burned. In this chapter we sometimes use "swidden" where appropriate to describe fields created with the aid of fire, but otherwise use "shifting cultivation." Though this is an imprecise and inadequate term, as discussed below, it does convey one essential element, that of land rotation. We do not use "slashand-burn" at all.

3. According to different sources, not detailed here, the elements that most swiftly become deficient to food plants are in some cases nitrogen, in others phosphorus or potassium. Possibly, different natural soil conditions are involved in these studies, which are widely scattered throughout the tropics.

4. This excludes the Malay Banjarese, who have been in South Kalimantan since medieval times and have since spread more widely. They are never described as "Dayaks." The Banjarese are still the largest single ethno-linguistic group in Borneo. A significant minority among them do practice shifting cultivation.

5. This may not last. In some areas of West Kalimantan the World Bank is now supporting the extensive planting of monocrop rubber at the expense of secondary forest, grass, and even some residual primary forest, on gentle and steep slopes alike. It will replace swidden, of which there is now not much. Since these communities also grow wet rice, the pattern of the future is presumably envisaged as a set of rice and rubber communities - like the Peninsular Malaysia villages that are the main locus of persistent rural poverty in that wealthy country, or the Hulu Sungai, which contains several pockets of severe poverty.

6. Visiting this village in 1992, Brookfield was treated by the shaman for a sprained wrist. The shaman used up to 44 herbs, collected from the managed forest, secondary forest, and the small remnant of primary forest. The treatment was effective in eliminating pain and swelling in a single night.

7. The other years were very probably 1965 and 1972, in both of which ENSO events gave rise to quite severe drought in western Borneo, having more effect on human occupation there than in regions more normally affected by drought.

8. Stones found in the gall bladders of two species of monkey, widely used for medical purposes, especially by Chinese.

9. Mayer (1988) reports on the gentian Dayak community, about 7,500 people living in eight villages along the border of Central and East Kalimantan. They have been involved in arguments with the Kutai regional authorities and East Kalimantan provincial government over their efforts to secure titles to their lands, which they have long worked under adat (customary) law. Five logging concessions operate in their area on a total of 90,000 ha and there have been many disputes, including the bulldozing of a rattan forest by one company, with no compensation being offered. Recent establishment of a plantation forest (HTI) on some of the land has further restricted peoples' traditional farming activities, although providing one day's work per week. The people want their land back and, forming an organization through the traditional adat group, demanded dialogue with the regional and provincial authorities. Although a hearing of their complaints was held through a special commission from the East Kalimantan parliament, no action was immediately taken. In the eyes of the government, the people have no legal rights to the land; government sources favour commercial tree plantation development in the area (IHRF, 1992).

10. Unfortunately, data on ethnic breakdown were not yet available at the time of writing.

11. Forest plantation work is unpopular, hence the heavy recruitment of transmigrants. There have been some complaints by "human rights" activists about the nature of this recruitment and employment.

12. There are always places reserved for locals in transmigration schemes, in order partly to dampen accusations of favouritism towards Javanese and other newcomers. After a few years, some of these resettlement projects are simply abandoned and the people drift back to their old lands; the government-provided houses have sometimes then been re-used for transmigrants.

13. Similarly, in 1986,10 Orang Asli households living in a Malay reservation in a forest-girt valley east of Kuala Lumpur had mean income and expenditure levels closely comparable with the means of the whole 136 households in the valley, with a higher proportion derived from farm sources; they worked closely with Chinese ginger farmers in the forests behind the reservation (Brookfield, Samad Hadi, and Zaharah Mahmud, 1991:154-155).

Deforestation and global climate

The issue as presented: Criticality of global concern
Research on carbon dioxide emissions from tropical deforestation
Longer-term considerations
The place of the Borneo and Peninsular forests in the management of greenhouse gas emissions

The issue as presented: Criticality of global concern

An alleged major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions

At the UNCED meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and in the preparatory discussions for that meeting, tropical deforestation was among the most hotly debated questions.) The "non-legally binding authoritative statement" adopted the product of compromise drew attention to the "vital role of all types of forests in maintaining the ecological processes and balance at the local, national, regional and global levels" (United Nations, 1993: 292). Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 noted at paragraph 11 that "the present situation calls for urgent and consistent action for conserving and sustaining forest resources" (ibid.: 90). The reasons are suggested but not analysed. These were mild words by comparison with much of the "green" literature on the clearance and degradation of tropical rain forests and the associated erosion and loss of biodiversity. The biodiversity issue has been addressed in chapter 4.

A still more serious problem for the world as a whole is, however, raised by the now widely accepted contribution of tropical deforestation to global warming. It is principally from this cause that Indonesia is now calculated to rank ninth among all countries in total greenhouse gas emissions, contributing 2.4 per cent of the world total. Of this, 78 per cent is calculated as due to biomass reduction and consumption, together with agriculture (principally methane), and 22 per cent from fossil fuel combustion (Foundation for Research and

Industrial Affiliation, 1991; Petrich, 1993). Although the contribution of Malaysia is smaller, it ranks well above that of Indonesia on a per capita basis. At this scale, Borneo and the Peninsula constitute a truly critical environmental zone for all of humankind, and the issue thus demands consideration in this book.

Tropical deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions

Although the role of forests as a major sink in the global carbon cycle has been known for as long as bio-geochemical cycles have been understood, the climatic effect of tropical deforestation is a fairly new issue. It is now estimated that, before the twentieth century, temperate deforestation and soil disturbance were the largest contributors of CO2 into the atmosphere, after which their significance was overtaken by the rapid increase in fossil fuel consumption. About mid-twentieth century, tropical deforestation began to exceed that in temperate lands (R. A. Houghton, 1990a, 1990b). By the most authoritative of a range of estimates, it is now calculated that emissions from forest clearance contribute up to two-sevenths of total anthropogenic input into the global cycle (J. T. Houghton, Jenkins, and Ephraims, 1990: xxxii, 1016).2 Small amounts of methane and nitrous oxide are also released into the atmosphere by forest burning or decay, together with some non-greenhouse gases.

However, the possibility that tropical deforestation might be a major contributor of greenhouse gases was not seriously suggested until the late 1970s (Woodwell and Houghton, 1977). Before this time, few others who expressed growing concern at the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 made much of any input other than that of fossil fuels. As late as the mid-1980s the largest issues regarding the climatic effects of deforestation still concerned the debatable effect on global albedo or reflectivity (e.g. Henderson-Sellers and Gornitz, 1984; Jäger and Barry, 1990; R. A. Houghton and Skole, 1990). Loss of carbon-sink capacity - popularly, but erroneously, the oxygenproducing "lungs of the earth" - was a perceived problem well before emissions became the central cause for concern. The sink effect remains important in a less emotive context, as we shall see below.

The World Resources Institute and other estimates

Carbon flux from tropical deforestation has become a very major issue in recent years. In the late 1980s, Myers (1989a) produced an alarming set of revised estimates of global and especially tropical deforestion and drew sharp attention to the climatic consequences. However, prime place in bringing about wide public and official awareness must be attributed to the energetic research and publication programme of the World Resources Institute (WRI). In the mid-1980s, this body and other environmental organizations were reported to be seeking both new issues and more aggressive approaches (Thompson, 1985), and WRI was said to liken "the global deforcountries in the 1970s" (Clarke, 1985).3 Whether or not this is the case, WRI (1990) published a new apportionment of national responsibilities for greenhouse gas emissions, based on an index developed by Hammond, Rodenburg, and Moomaw (1991), in the run-up to the Rio UNCED conference. Giving substantial weight to current deforestation rates and to the methane fluxes from wet rice and livestock, it put three developing countries Brazil, China, and India among the first six. On a different basis, and with less public exposure, R. A. Houghton and Skole (1990: 399), using their own data together with those of Marland, Rotty, and Treat (1985), also found emission rates for carbon alone in parts of South-East Asia, South America, and West Africa to be in a comparable high class (over 100 tons/km²) with the east of North America, an industrial belt across Europe, north China, and Japan. The estimates are accepted in Indonesia (Foundation for Research and Industrial Affiliation, 1991).

The wide publicity given to the revised WRI estimates, and their air of seeming reliability, generated both alarm and hostility in developing countries, which had not expected to bear any major share in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. On a per capita basis, their contribution was small by comparison with that of the older industrial countries, but the total as presented was much larger than anticipated. The conclusions, the WRI index itself, and the political implications drawn from its results were all contested with particular force by two Indian scientists, Agarwal and Narain (1991). The details of this debate are summarized, from both technical and political points of view, in a group of articles in Global Environmental Change (Ahuja, 1992; Brookfield, 1992; Jodha, 1992; Redclift, 1992; Zhao Songqiao, 1992) and will not be repeated here. It should merely be noted that estimates for wet-rice methane were extrapolated globally from studies in Italian rice fields, and that the deforestation estimates were criticized on grounds similar to those discussed elsewhere in this book. It was also argued that the WRI scientists combined good data with bad and lumped together both long-term and short-term contributions around the one reference year 1987, and their index itself was regarded as faulty.4 From our present point of view, however, we need to look behind the WRI estimates and take greater account of the scientific basis on which tropical deforestation has come to be regarded as a major contributor.

In less expert hands than those of the WRI scientists, tropical deforestation has become the most indefensible of all contributors of carbon fluxes, with important political consequences.5 The CO2 flux issue has been combined with biodiversity, concern over the fate of forest-dwelling people, and a more general unease over the extremely rapid rate of cutting to generate an almost worldwide opposition to further deforestation. As noted in chapter 5, this led by 1992 to a stage at which partial or complete bans on the import of tropical timber were beginning to be imposed or threatened by national governments. "Eco-labelling" is more widely demanded by environmental activists, might become policy in at least the European Union, and is being taken very seriously in Indonesia and Malaysia. We refrain from expressing an opinion on this development as a whole, but go on to examine, for soundness, the part of the conservationist argument that depends on greenhouse gas emissions from tropical deforestation.

Research on carbon dioxide emissions from tropical deforestation

Reasons for uncertainty

Three main elements are involved in the estimation of potential CO2 emissions.6 First is estimation of change in the forest area and its rate, which is difficult because there are still few good inventories, and satellite imagery has only now begun to yield reliable data. Second is calculation of forest biomass, which requires extrapolation from small-area surveys, or simply estimation. Third is evaluation of the effects of interference other than complete conversion to non-forest uses, that is, of shifting cultivation and logging. This last element is complicated by uncertainty over the net effect of initial destruction and subsequent recovery during which new growth takes up carbon at a far higher rate than in dynamically stable forest; there is also the need to take account of carbon removed but not destroyed, in the form of wood products.

Initial calculations were based on net land-use change alone, arising from conversion to agriculture or grassland. Good work, especially coming from the Woods Hole Research Institute in the United States, quickly eliminated some early wild estimates. One influential set yielded a carbon release from the nonfallow forests in the Asian tropics equal to only 7 per cent of that from global fossil fuel consumption (R. A. Houghton et al., 1985). However, there remains a wide range in the calculated results, none of which can be regarded as definitive, so that the effect of all tropical land-use change, globally, can still be estimated at somewhere between 8 and 47 per cent of carbon flux from fossil fuel consumption (Brown, Gillespie, and Lugo, 1991). The Scientific Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (J. T. Houghton, Jenkins, and Ephraims, 1990: 11) notes this uncertainty in the estimates, and opts for a value close to the mid-point, with a very much larger error range than for release due to fossil fuel emissions (p. 13). However, in discussing reasons for the unexplained imbalance in the carbon cycle (p. 17), they note, as a possible alternative to the presence of additional sequestering process or capacities in the ocean and biosphere, that "the amount of CO2 released from tropical deforestation [might be] at the low end of current estimates." Although the subsequent trend of estimates from tropical deforestation is upward, nothing definitive has yet been established.

A further question of major importance concerns the rates of deforestation employed in calculations. The revisions made by the World Resources Institute are said to be based on satellite information, and thus are presumably a major improvement on all others, including those of Myers (1989a), which do not rely on this source of data. However, satellite imagery data are criticized as full of "ambiguities and impossibilities" by Blasco and Achard (1990), specifically in the context of the South-East Asian region, where they discuss the problems in some detail. We have seen above how uncertain the estimates are in Borneo. On the other hand, the Peninsula has perhaps the most reliable data on change through time to be found in any part of the humid tropics, based on two national forest inventories carried out around 1970-1972 and 1980-1981 (FAO, 1973; Unit Pengurusan Hutan, 1982). These data have been employed in what is perhaps the best work done up to the early 1990s.

Scientific progress

The carbon content of wood is a fairly constant 45 per cent of biomass, but the biomass of wood of a given volume is substantially affected by its density. If it could be measured for different dates, then any reduction would accurately represent loss of carbon stocks on the site. In the case of complete clearance this often represents almost total loss to the atmosphere, either swiftly by fire or slowly by decay. For selective logging only a proportion of the carbon is lost on site or at the point of processing, much being removed elsewhere in wood form. Until the late 1980s the relevant data could be obtained only by guesswork and the use of averages, which yielded values with very large uncertainty factors (Woodwell et al., 1983; R. A. Houghton et al., 1985), but there has since been substantial progress toward more accurate estimation (Dale, Houghton, and Hall, 1991).

Brown, Gillespie, and Lugo (1989) found innovative ways of using forest inventory data - employing mean density values by species - to obtain biomass and hence carbon. There remain large problems in estimating volumes, since only breast-height diameter from a small proportion of trees is usually available, but with information on the species a much closer approximation becomes possible. Hall and Uhlig (1991) further revised biomass estimates by using the new expansion factors with data on commercial tree volumes per hectare for undisturbed, logged, unproductive, and managed forest. They applied the results to pan-tropical FAO data on land use in 1980, with a rather notional allowance for shifting cultivation, to obtain new estimates of carbon flux. The lack of better data on shifting cultivation reduces the value of these results.7

The role of forest degradation

Brown, Gillespie, and Lugo (1991) then made use of forest inventories throughout South and South-East Asia, and particularly of the two good national forest inventories of Peninsular Malaysia, further developing the method pioneered by themselves in 1989. They introduced the concept of "degraded" forest, meaning forest reduced in biomass from its original state, principally by logging or shifting cultivation. Comparing area and calculated biomass for different forest types on the Peninsula at the two dates, they found a statistically, highly significant reduction in mean biomass per hectare on the large area of logged hill forest and on the small extent of shifting-cultivation forest. Noting that degradation as well as decrease in the forest area imply loss of carbon, they derived a "degradation ratio" from the ratio of biomass lost to area lost, relative to the initial average biomass. For the Peninsula as a whole, where the forest area was reduced by 18 per cent over the decade and the biomass by 28 per cent, this ratio was 1.6.

This finding was then taken up by R. A. Houghton (1991), who used the less reliable long-term data on land-use change in tropical Asia collected by Flint and Richards (1991) and a set of hypotheses concerning the mixed use of high biomass and low biomass forests in a series of experiments for all tropical Asia run through time.8 The effect of including degradation factors was to raise the estimates of carbon flux since 1850 by from 25 to 110 per cent (the variation depending on biomass estimation), over and above that calculated on the basis of deforestation alone. Moreover, estimated degradation factors increase through time.

The new data on forest degradation add to the previously calculated contribution of South-East Asian and other tropical regions to global carbon flux, and more firmly establish the existence of a real and critical problem, though still of much smaller scale than that of fossil fuel emissions. This is the objective result of good work done with some of the best available data. Interpretation is another matter. R. A. Houghton (1991: 141) believes that sequestration of timber from destruction in the form of utilized wood is probably not more than 10 per cent in the tropical regions, where there are few incentives for efficiency in harvest and processing.9 This may be to overstate the actual position, at least where whole logs are removed and exported; it might be less of an overstatement with the highly inefficient manufacture of plywood. Also unclear is the real status of the degraded forests, many of which are full of vigorous young growth, of small timber volume but taking up carbon at a high rate. Moreover, a significant part of the land permanently cleared is under tree crops and, although these have small biomass by comparison with the forests they replace, their carbon storage is considerably greater than that of grassland and field crops. The effect of all this might be to reduce the estimates by not more than 15-25 per cent in their application to the South-East Asian region, but this amount of uncertainty has not yet been eliminated.

Evaluation of the scientific evidence

It seems to have been established that modern clearance and interference in the tropical forests have been significant contributors of carbon flux, and continue to be so. However, there is nothing like the firm quantification that can be given to the larger effect of burning fossil fuels. As Andresen and Wettestad (1992: 285) correctly observe in a different context: "it is highly questionable if any emissions other than fossil fuel CO2 are currently measurable and thus 'verifiable'." There are no measurements of fluxes, and everything depends on calculation, using increasingly sound methodology on very inadequate data.10 It none the less follows from the research results now obtained that greatly improved management, and reforestation, are in the highest degree desirable for the climatic reason alone, quite apart from the many other justifications for such change.

When this is said, however, the relative weight nowadays being given to tropical deforestation still seems to be more political than scientific. It remains more sound to criticize rapid destruction of the forests on the bases of biodiversity loss and of the very low price at which a long-term resource has been sold, thus greatly encouraging its consumption in temperate countries (Repetto, 1990). There is not the smallest room for doubt about the reckless waste of a resource created by centuries of natural growth, for limited and often shortterm gain. But this is not the only reason tropical deforestation is nowadays so fiercely attacked. It is hard to gainsay those who assert that some Western politicians, responding to and perhaps even manipulating their own environmental pressure groups, have used the tropical deforestation issue to divert attention away from the weak efforts until now made in most developed countries toward the massive reductions in emissions that are required by them.

Longer-term considerations

The prospect in the 1990s

There is some irony in the fact that pressure on tropical developing countries still with large forest resources has peaked at the time when, in most of them, the depredations made on these resources are quite sharply contracting. This is so in most of South-East Asia and also in Brazil. We have seen above that the demand for transmigrant and development land has diminished since the mid-1980s while, even in Sarawak and Kalimantan, belated (if still very inadequate) efforts are now being made to manage the remaining timber resource more economically and to avoid the fate that has already overtaken the timber industry in the Philippines, Thailand, and Sabah, and that is now imminent in the Peninsula and Viet Nam (Potter, 1993b). Although one consequence has been the spread of poorly managed forestry into Burma, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, and the larger west Pacific islands, the regional trend is toward a much more restrained use of the timber resource and toward plantation forestry. Moreover, as costs rise owing to exhaustion of the old-growth resource, the balance of competitive advantage will shift back toward temperate and sub-boreal woods, at least for as long as an aroused public in the northern lands will permit their increased exploitation. Although pressure on the remaining forests and woodlands of the poor and densely peopled countries of south Asia and Africa shows no sign of diminishing, it is likely that in South-East Asia as a whole and in tropical Brazil the rate of biomass destruction and degradation has already dropped significantly from the levels encountered in the mid-1980s. We may expect it to decline further during the 1990s, even in the remaining pockets of gross overexploitation, and increasingly to be offset by biomass augmentation through forest planting and natural recovery.

By the end of the 1990s it is not unlikely that the real bases for greatest concern over greenhouse gas emissions from the region will have shifted to the unavoidable flux of methane from the rice fields and to the much more avoidable inputs from fossil fuel consumption in the heavily urbanized areas and their rural surroundings. Already in 1980, input levels from this source from areas including West Java, the southern Peninsula and Singapore, central Luzon, and central Thailand were in a broad class with the western United States and the urban-industrial areas of Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina (Marland, Rotty, and Treat, 1985; R. A. Houghton and Skole, 1990). Since 1980, there has certainly been a large further increase in atmospheric pollution from fossil fuel consumption in the burgeoning urban areas of the South-East Asian region.

There is a further consideration of importance. Both in Brazil and in SouthEast Asia, the onslaught on the forests did not become massive before 1965 and was already at least starting to diminish before 1990. During this same period, about half the much larger volume of carbon emissions from fossil fuels made globally since 1860 has entered the atmosphere (R. A. Houghton and Skole, 1990: 398).

The check in South-East Asian deforestation since the mid-1980s bears comparison with a sharp check in fossil-fuel consumption that took place in some advanced industrial countries a few years earlier, for which much credit is claimed in those countries. Both have had mainly economic rather than conservationist bases, and it is disturbing that neither has really done much to check the rate of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere.

National reactions and responses

The immediate reaction in South-East Asia, however, was one of serious concern regarding the implications of the new calculations for national development strategies and for relations with international and bilateral funding agencies. Although both Indonesia and Malaysia signed the global warming and biodiversity conventions at Rio de Janeiro, the international reaction has been to seek common ground with other developing countries in negotiations with the industrialized nations. For Indonesia, a rather tardy and weak-willed record in implementing other international environmental agreements signed in the past is detailed by Petrich (1993: 56-58). He concludes (p. 77):

The country currently has limited follow-through capacity: it has much of the requisite technical know-how in the resource protection area, but little of the political knowledge or the political will needed to take action.... Significant improvement over past performance is unlikely when the country's resources and attentions are focused elsewhere and spread so thinly. The fact that the projected effects of global climate change would exacerbate all the country's current problems probably carries little influence in the political dialogue.

A lot is, in fact, now known about these consequences, in both Indonesia and Malaysia, where some very thorough studies - using the available results of General Circulation Models - have been undertaken (Sham Sani and Chong, 1991; Sham Sani, 1993; de Rozari, 1993). Some evidence of warming is found in the regional data, and recent decades have exhibited high rainfall variability, but none of this can firmly be linked to secular climatic change. A bigger problem arises from the heat islands that have developed above growing cities and are still increasing. Sealevel is also equivocal, there being some evidence of a relative rise of the land in the Java Sea region that would reduce the projected net rise due to global warming. However, with large areas of both countries, but especially Indonesia, created only since completion of the Holocene marine transgression, vulnerability to sealevel change is as great as in any part of the world. Moreover, there are likely effects on crop yields, especially rice.

The problem, however, is that the large adaptations required if and when the predictions become reality will themselves become a major burden on the resources of two countries that are not yet "wealthy." It would, therefore, seem a reasonable national strategy to persist with policies intended to create greater national wealth even if these policies have some adverse consequences for the global climate. This is more so when the total regional contribution to causing climatic adversity is only a small proportion and unlikely to become very much more significant. It is even more the case when there is some real cause for doubt about the calculations on which present estimates of their contribution are based. None of this is to say that Indonesia and Malaysia are unaware of the need for better environmental management, but the reasons for improving management do not have a great deal to do with their international responsibilities; those of others are perceived, rightly, as being far greater.

Global warming in the long term

Agarwal and Narain (1991) and other critics of the WRI (1990) estimates are clearly right in pointing to the much larger and longer contribution of greenhouse gases made by the developed and industrial countries, compared with the developing countries. They are not, however, right in suggesting that the rising contribution of the developing countries can, for the time being, safely be ignored or traded away on some notional basis. Nor are the many others who have advanced the same argument. In the South-East Asian countries, land use and forestry will continue to make greenhouse gas inputs but, with the notable exception of methane from the rice fields, there are ways in which these can to some degree be managed. The real problem is the rising demand for energy as development and structural change continue their rapid progress in the region (Clark, 1993). In this respect, the South-East Asian countries are in the forefront of developing countries characterized by both increasing population and successful development strategies.

The problem, as Cline (1992: 21-22) points out in a rare study of global warming that looks beyond the simple doubling of atmospheric CO2 and equivalents, is that the major abundant energy source - coal - is also the worst from the greenhouse point of view. With the addi tion of smaller quantities of oil and gas, global coal resources available at reasonable present cost are sufficient to multiply atmospheric carbon concentrations to 5 or 10 times their present levels, far beyond doubling, and to go on doing this for another two or three centuries. Within South-East Asia, we have seen above that both Indonesia and Malaysia are now seriously examining their large coal resources in the light of an early shortage of oil. Moreover, the island of Borneo has a large percentage of these resources. By the second decade of the twenty-first century it is not improbable that the offshore gas and onshore coal of Borneo could make this island the major regional energy source and, indirectly, a far more certain source of carbon fluxes into the atmosphere than forest-clearing and timber-getting activities make it today.

If we look at the long term, therefore, the present- and probably already declining - atmospheric inputs from deforestation and forest degradation in this part of the humid tropics cease to look like the most significant problem. In the context of a debate about the coming two centuries of global warming, which is what the debate should be about, tropical deforestation at the rates experienced during the past 30 years is a contributor, but is not the major issue. The real problem is the rising energy demands of development and of the still fastgrowing global population. The further problem is that there is no present prospect that the rising energy demands of developing countries can be met without the use of a large low-cost resource that is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. If alternatives to this scenario are to be found, the time to begin looking for them is now. There is no case for turning a blind eye in the short term to the increasing atmospheric pollution coming from the developing countries, those of South-East Asia as much as any. But there is every case for looking at the real problem, rather than diverting an excessive proportion of attention to a lesser question over which there remains a great deal of uncertainty and on which there is much less than adequate or uptodate information.

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