Climate Change Basics for Teachers in Indonesia

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In June and July 2013 forest and peat-land fires in Riau caused haze in Pekanbaru, the provincial capital, and neighboring countries Singapore and the south of Malaysia. The haze became a health hazard and obstructed vision for aircraft and land transport.

Earlier in January, the Banjir Kanal waterway that runs through Central Jakarta from East to West overflowed. The heavy waterload burst the levee on its northern bank along Jalan Latuharhari. Immense flooding hit the Hotel Indonesia Roundabout, Thamrin Boulevard and the Presidential Palace. Street traffic was paralysed. People could not go to work. The Riau fires and the Jakarta floods are linked to climate change primarily caused by human activity.

In the Riau case the deliberate burning of peatland to clear space for expanded oil palm planting released great amounts of carbon dioxide contained in the peat. It is one case of repeated deforestation and degradation of forests in Indonesia that result in significant carbon emissions. Carbon emissions are also caused by other human activity, particularly in the use of fossil fuels for energy generation. Fossil fuels, primarily coal, oil, and natural gas, contain carbon dioxide. Fossil fuels are burned for factories and transport vehicles and release great amounts of CO2.


Why should people need to know and be concerned about climate change? During the 20th century, Earth’s globally averaged surface temperature rose by approximately 1.08°F (0.6°C). Additional warming of more than 0.25°F (0.14°C) has been measured since 2000. Though the total increase may seem small, it likely represents an extraordinarily rapid rate of change compared to changes in the previous 10,000 years, according to the 2009 U.S. government booklet Climate Literacy (

Over the 21st century, climate scientists expect Earth’s temperature to continue increasing, very likely more than it did during the 20th century. Two anticipated results are rising global sea level and increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, and floods. These changes will affect almost every aspect of human society, including economic prosperity, human and environmental health, and national security. Scientific observations
and climate model results indicate that human activities are now the primary cause of most of the ongoing increase in Earth’s globally averaged surface temperature, the booklet states.

Basically, climate change starts with carbon emissions. CO2 and other carbon or greenhouse gases gather in the atmosphere and become a blanket that traps the sun’s heat and prevents some of that heat to reflect back into outer space. Over time the entrapment of the sun’s heat, known as the greenhouse effect, causes global warming. In the long term, global warming results in climate change. To note, a greenhouse is a heated building, constructed with glass walls, to grow plants. Greenhouses are usually found in countries that have a
winter season when it lacks warm weather. Greenhouses are normally not found in tropical countries that enjoy sunshine and hot temperature almost throughout the year.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is very concerned on climate change. On September 27 2013 the IPCC, which represents the world's leading climate scientists, produced a major report on the state of knowledge of global warming. The IPCC said warming was occurring and the dominant force behind it was human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.

Globally, 80 percent of carbon emissions come from energy use. This is the use of the three major fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas. In Indonesia, however, 77.6 percent of carbon emissions come from non-energy sources, according to the Second National Communication, a 2009 government report on climate change to the United Nations. These non-energy sources that release carbon dioxide gas are deforestation, degradation of forests, and land-use change, particularly peatland converted to oil palm plantations.

The concern on global warming and climate change is the numerous impacts it can cause that leads to damage of the environment, property loss and human suffering. The frequent floods in Jakarta is the consequence of human activity. People cut trees in the upland areas of Jakarta’s 13 rivers. Because of the decrease in forest cover, more rainwater is not retained by upland soil. A greater volume of rainwater then moves downstream and floods Jakarta when much rain occurs in Bogor and elsewhere south of Jakarta.

The risk in flooding increases when the rivers are clogged with uncollected waste. Flooding causes damaged houses, water-borne disease, work stoppage, immobility, children unable to go to school. As a nation of many islands, Indonesia is very vulnerable to climate change. The ice caps melt and the sea level rises. Coastal areas become flooded and small islands can be covered by the sea.

The following cause-effect chain shows what causes climate change and what impact it brings.
Human activity --> Carbon emissions --> Greenhouse effect --> Global warming --> Climate change --> Impacts

Human activity is the use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, oil and natural gas. Fossil fuels generate electric power, run factories, light buildings and drive cars, planes and ships. Another major human activity is land-use, land-use change and forestry. Countries particularly with large tracts of forest and peatland like Indonesia would clear the land for forest timber, agriculture, mining, plantations, construction of buildings and roads. Deforestation and degradation of forests are forms of land-use change.

Carbon emissions are the release of carbon dioxide and other gases when fossil fuels are burned and forest trees and plants are cleared. All these gases are called greenhouse gases.

The greenhouse effect is the blanket-effect of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that prevents heat from the sun on Earth to reflect back into space.

Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of planet Earth from year to year partly due to the greenhouse effect.

Climate change is the long–term change of the climate caused by global warming due to direct and indirect human activity. Climate change is determined by the mean or mid-value parameters of the weather in measuring climate conditions or its variabilities. These parameters include air temperature, rainfall, and wind velocity.

Impacts from climate change occur in seven areas, according to a 2011 flow chart of Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change (DNPI). These seven sectors are: health, agriculture, forestry, social-economic matters, water resources, the seas and coastlands, and natural species and habitats.

In health the impact can be malnutrition and the spread of dengue fever, malaria, malnutrition, diare, and infectious diseases.

In agriculture changes in weather patterns occur. In Indonesia rain falls in the dry season so that farmers call it the wet dry season (musim kemarau basah). Disruption in foodcrop planting endangers food security.

In forestry, change in the function of the forest occurs. Forest fires intensify.

In the social-economic field, people lose their homes and jobs because of floods and other calamities. They become climate refugees.

In water resources, the availability of quality water decreases. Floods occur.

In the seas and coastlands, shore erosion occurs. Small islands submerge.

In natural species and habitats, species become extinct and habitats are destroyed.

What can countries do to respond to climate change? Worldwide, nations have two answers to climate change: mitigation and adaptation. The government has adopted these two approaches as its national policy on climate change.

Government policy

Mitigation is the action to reduce carbon emissions. Adaptation is action to decrease the impact of climate change. People adapt to the situation to lessen the impact. As government policy in mitigation, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced in September 2009 Indonesia will reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020 or as much as by 41 percent with international cooperation. This targeted cut is calculated against projected business as usual emissions. Business as usual emissions are the emissions when no action is
taken to reduce the amount.

In mitigation, a major government program is its REDD+ initiative. REDD+ is a mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, particularly a country like Indonesia that has a large expanse of tropical rainforest. The + (plus) sign refers to additional benefits that includes the increase of forest carbon stocks, nature conservation, and reducing poverty in forest communities. The REDD+ program is central in Indonesia’s target to reduce emissions by 26 percent in 2020 and by 41 percent with international cooperation. In May 2010 Indonesia signed a REDD+ agreement with Norway. Norway would grant Indonesia up to US 1 billion dollars for verified emissions reduction from deforestation and thus saves Indonesia’s forests.

Meanwhile policy in adaptation is programs to help communities that are at high risk of a climate change impact. This adaptation action is to reduce that impact. For farmers, the change in weather patterns make them have to adapt to the changing weather. In Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, for example, the provincial agricultural service through a local radio station informs rice farmers what type of rice seed to plant if plentiful rain occurs in the dry
season. If farmers plant an unsuitable rice seed, their rice harvest may fail. For people in coastal areas like in Demak, Central Java, where flooding can occur because of high waves, residents can adapt by building elevated houses or move inland.

In adaptation, government programs are in areas that have a high degree of risk to climate change impact. These areas or sectors are agriculture, forestry, marine affairs and fisheries, health, and water resources. In agriculture, for instance, an adaptation project could be rehabilitating irrigation networks and building dykes to prevent flooding of rice fields.

Some major government bodies that work on climate change are The National Council on Climate Change, Environment Ministry, Forestry Ministry, National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), and the REDD+ Management Agency.


Climate change policy can be complex and challenging, particularly in mitigation. The REDD+ Management Agency, for instance, may plan to reduce emissions in 100,000 hectares of tropical rainforest in Central Kalimantan. The problem is forest concerned has overlapping permits. For the same area of land, permits from local government agencies have been issued for projects in agriculture, mining, plantation crops, and public works. Thus the challenge is how best to coordinate all the parties concerned.

Another challenge is how to give benefit to forest communities when a project takes place in their area. The communities’ interest must be considered. Another continuing problem is the slash-and-burn practice of clearing the land, particularly peatland. This creates immense smoke that causes health hazards and haze.

World action

Reducing carbon emissions is a global effort. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, more than 150 countries including Indonesia signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UNFCCC is a document that calls for ”the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” In other words, nations that have signed the Convention will take action to keep the level of carbon emissions down, particularly emissions from human activity.

Internationally, Indonesia participates in world conferences on climate change. Since 1995, the UNFCCC has held annual conferences on climate change called the Conference of Parties (COP). Indonesia played host to the 13th conference, COP 13, in Bali in 2007. Bali produced the Bali Action Program, a set of activities to reach a major climate change agreement in 2020.

Since COP 13, Indonesia has been very active in negotiations toward that new agreement to reduce carbon emissions to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol obliges developed nations to reduce emissions by 5.2 percent in 2012 from their 1990 emissions level. Now negotiations are underway to replace the Kyoto Protocol that was extended in 2012 and expires in 2020. The new agreement would oblige all countries, developed and developing, to reduce carbon emissions to a certain level. Meanwhile, many developing countries like Indonesia, India and Brazil, have already made voluntary carbon cuts.

Individual acts

So what can people do specifically at home and in the workplace to reduce global warming and the impact of climate change? You as an individual can carry out numerous acts to reduce carbon emissions.

  1. Save electricity. Turn unnecessary lights off. Use energy-saving light bulbs.
  2. Turn off all unused home appliances like the TV set, the iron, and kitchen tools.
  3. Use a cloth bag you can use again and again and not plastic bags when you shop in your local market. Plastic bags and other plastic products create carbon dioxide.
  4. Separate organic waste and non-organic waste. Organic waste is like orange peels and vegetable residue from cooking in the kitchen. Non-organic waste can be plastic bottles, paper, and glass articles.
  5. Walk. Ride a bicycle. Use public transport. Private cars emit more carbon dioxide than public buses per person.

Schools’ role

Beyond individuals, schools can play a major role in reducing carbon emissions and in decreasing climate change impacts. Schools have the crucial duty to teach today’s children who will be tomorrow’s leaders. Teachers can make schoolchildren environment-friendly and climate literate. Children who become aware of climate change now can work to minimize climate impacts when they become decision makers in future. Teachers can instill their students with climate change awareness through the teach-and-learn methods of experimenting, observation, field trips, library study, group discussions, interviewing, role playing, debating, and engge in other environment-related activities.

Teachers can integrate climate change into the curriculum or apply models in climate change education. Five school subjects that can have a climate change component are Science (IPA), Social Studies (IPS), Bahasa Indonesia, and Citizenship (PKN), according to Suplemen Pembelajaran Perubahan Iklim untuk Guru (Climate Change Learning Supplement for Teachers), a 2012 publication of the Environment Affairs Ministry.

In science, students can learn about temperature and the means to measure it. In Social Studies, students can learn to describe geographical and population conditions. In Bahasa Indonesia, students can attempt to summarize in their own words news articles about the climate. In Citizenship, the class can learn about norms of behavior and customs that support climate awareness. The 70-page volume is designed for teaching grades 7, 8 and 9 at
junior high school level. The guidebook provides sample material and a learning syllabus for the five school subjects.

The bottom line: climate solutions start with changing people’s behavior so that they become climate aware. Children are key. The nation’s future is in their hands. Teachers have the noble task to make children climate literate and climate smart.


Adaptation Action to decrease the impact of climate change. Adaptation activities in the school can be using water without wasting it, cultivating an organic garden, holding evacuation drills and response-to-disaster exercises, have one day to clean the school, continuous reminders for small practical acts like throwing rubbish in the rubbish bin, children carry their own drinking bottles, less use of plastics. (Activities list from Suplemen , KLH 2012)

Mitigation Action to reduce carbon emissions. Mitigation activities in the school can include planting many trees, ride bicycles to school, using energy- saving light bulbs and turning off unnecessary fans and air conditioning, consume local food, use the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) principle in waste management, run competitions on innovations in renewable energy (KLH 2012)

Carbon Dioxide The gas that people breathe out and plants breathe in. Trees and fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas contain carbon dioxide gas. Plants and fossil fuels emit their carbon content when they are cut or burnt. The gas has no color and no smell. When carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases gather in the atmosphere they cause the greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Effect The entrapment of the sun’s heat due to the concentration of carbon gases in the atmosphere. The accumulation of the gases, known as greenhouse gases, function as a greenhouse that prevents some of the heat from the sun to reflect back into space. A greenhouse is a heated building to grow plants. Greenhouses are found in countries that have winter when the land receives little sun heat. The greenhouse effect causes global warming.

Global Warming The rise in the average temperature of Earth from year to year partly due to the greenhouse effect.

Climate Change The long–term change of the climate caused by global warming due to direct and indirect human activity. Climate change is determined by the mean or mid-value parameters of the weather in measuring climate conditions or its variabilities. These parameters include air temperature, rainfall, and wind velocity. The impacts of climate change include extreme weather conditions. Two examples of extreme weather that caused
much property loss, physical damage, and human misery were Superstorm Sandy in the northeast part of the United States in November 2012 and Typhoon Bopha in the southern Philippines in December 2012.

Greenhouse Gases Gases that mostly contain carbon and cause the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. The primary greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2). Other greenhouse gases are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), and perfluorocarbons (PFC). Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere from ground emissions by natural processes and human activity.

Anthropogenic Emissions Carbon emissions caused by human activity. Human activity is in energy use and in non-energy activity. Energy use is the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas for electric power, run factories, and move motorized vehicles. Non-energy activity that emit carbon is clearing forests, peatland and other vegetation. Carbon emissions cause global warming. According to the IPCC, anthropogenic emissions are the main cause of
global warming.

REDD+ Mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Added actions and benefits are nature conservation, poverty eradication in forest communities, and developing carbon stocks through the planting of new trees. For this latter action, for instance, in 2009 the government launched its One Billion Indonesian Trees for the World (OBIT) program. Further in 2011 the government placed a moratorium in the issuance of new forest and peatland licenses. Such licenses allow investors to clear forest and peatland for planting projects but they result in carbon emissions. In June 2013 the moratorium was extended for two more years to 2015. A policy measure to reduce emissions is Presidential Regulation Number 61/2011 on the National Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions ( Peraturan Presiden Nomor 61 2011 tentang Rencana Aksi Nasional Penurunan Emisi Gas Rumah Kaca). This measure is to realize Indonesia’s voluntary commitment to
reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020. The action plan covers five sectors: forests and peatlands (the largest portion), waste, energy and transportation, agriculture, and industry. On August 31 2013 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed Presidential Regulation Number 62/2013 to establish the REDD+ Management Agency (Badan Pengelola REDD+) that answers directly to the President on reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The job of the agency is to develop a REDD national strategy, coordinate and implement REDD+ policy, and mainstreaming it into national development.

DNPI National Council on Climate Change (Dewan Nasional Perubahan Iklim), established under Presidential Regulation No. 46/2008. DNPI has the function to shape climate change policy and coordinate activities in adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, and funding. It also coordinates the Indonesian delegation in international negotiations.

UNFCCC The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a major document to deal with climate change that UN member nations agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Convention acknowledges climate change is a global issue caused by carbon emissions primarily from human activity. The Convention calls to stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. More than 190 nations have now signed and ratified the Convention. They meet every year to negotiate an international agreement by 2020 that legally binds all nations to reduce emissions. The new, proposed agreement will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that only legally binds developed nations.