PALO ALTO, Calif. (UPI) — Expanding oil palm plantations, providing a common processed food ingredient, are driving rainforest destruction and increasing emissions, U.S. researchers say.
A study by Stanford and Yale universities, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, says deforestation for the development of oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo is causing a globally significant increase of carbon dioxide emissions.
An oil palm is a tropical tree with seeds that provide palm oil.
Indonesia is the leading producer of palm and palm kernel oil, which together account for more than 30 percent of global vegetable oil use
Plantation expansion is projected to contribute more than 615 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2020, an amount greater than all of Canada’s current fossil fuel emissions, the researchers said.
Indonesia’s tropical forest area is the third largest in the world, but Indonesia is also one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gasses because of rapid loss of carbon-rich forests and peatlands, they said.
The U.S. study created the first comprehensive maps of oil palm plantation expansion from 1990 to 2010.
“With this information, we were able to develop robust carbon bookkeeping accounts to quantify carbon emissions from oil palm development,” study leader Kimberly Carlson, a Yale doctorate student, said.