The impacts of global climate change in Indonesia: Jakarta as a case study

WRITTEN BY | Yara van Holten
November 2015

Jakarta is the most vulnerable city in Southeast Asia to the impacts of climate change. This paper analyzes the impacts global climate change has on Indonesia and in particular on Jakarta.


‘’So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.’’ – Barack Obama, June 2013

Climate change in Indonesia started receiving global attention when the government of Indonesia hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007 (Measey 2010). Global climate change is an important topic in Indonesia, because the country is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, which is the primary cause of current global climate change (Measey 2010). Global climate change causes many negative impacts on the country’s environment, population, and social and economic development.

In this paper I will answer the following question: What are the impacts of global climate change in Indonesia and in particular in Jakarta? I will answer this question by taking a threefold approach. Therefore, this chapter is also divided into three chapters. In the first chapter I will give an overview of global climate change in general. In this chapter I will cover various topics, such as the vulnerability to global climate change, the impacts of global climate change, and the response to global climate change. In the second chapter I will discuss global climate change in Indonesia. Here I will cover about the same topics as in the first chapter, but with a focus on Indonesia. In the last chapter I will cover global climate change in Jakarta. Again, I will discuss the same topics, but this time with a focus on Jakarta. Most emphasis in the last chapter is put on flooding, since this is the most frequently occurring natural disaster in Indonesia and a major problem in Jakarta. In the conclusion I will summarize the most important findings of this research.

Chapter 1 – Global climate change

1.1 Global climate change defined

Firstly, climate should not be confused with weather. Weather refers to atmospheric activity over a short time period, while climate refers to the average weather, or in other words, to the sum of weather events averaged over decades, centuries, or even thousands of years (Bradford 2014). Climate change is described by the Oxford dictionary as ‘’a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.’’

When people speak about climate change they mostly refer to the recent changes in climate from the mid to late 20th century onwards. However, the climate of the Earth has always been changing through history and time; it is a part of the Earth’s natural variability (NOAA 2007). The geologic record on climate change shows significant evidence for large- scale climate changes in the Earth’s past (NOAA 2007). For example, in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat (NASA 2015). These climate changes are mostly caused by small variations in the Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy on our planet (NASA 2015).

The recent changes in climate are different, because of two reasons: (1) most of it is caused by humans through the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; and (2) it is proceeding at a rate incomparable to any other time in the past 1,300 years and is expected to increase dangerously in the 21st century (NASA 2015; Smith et al 2003). In the Fifth Assessment Report that was released in 2013 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC, a scientific intergovernmental body established by the United Nations in 1988 that produces reports for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), is stated that 97 percent of climate change scientists agree that the rate of current global warming trends are not natural, but are primarily the result of human activity (IPCC 2014; Bradford 2014). Furthermore, this report states that humans are not only responsible for global warming, but also for other effects of global climate change, such as rising sea levels and melting ice (IPCC 2014; Chow 2013).

1.2 The causes of global climate change

Global warming is caused by the interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and incoming radiation from the sun (Bradford 2014). The exchange of incoming and outgoing radiation that warms the Earth is called the greenhouse effect (Lallanila 2015). The natural greenhouse effect is necessary to make human life on Earth possible, because without it the Earth’s surface would be below the freezing point of water (IPCC 2007). Climate change caused by humans results from an excessive amount of certain types of gas into the atmosphere due to human activity (Bradford 2014). The gases primarily responsible for the greenhouse effect are known as greenhouse gases and include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone (O3) (Bradford 2014; IPCC 2007). Due to economic and population growth anthropogenic gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era and are currently higher than ever before (IPCC 2014, p. 4). CO2 comes into the atmosphere through various ways, but must importantly by burning fossil fuels and deforestation (IPCC 2014; Bradford 2014). Image 1 shows the increase in global anthropogenic CO2 emissions from 1850 to 2010 from forestry and other land use, as well as from burning fossil fuels, cement and flaring. The amount of CO2 has drastically increased since the Industrial Revolution and is currently increasing 100 times faster compared to when the last ice age ended (Bradford 2014).

image 1Image 1. Global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Source: IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report.

1.3 Vulnerability to global climate change

‘’Climate models are not yet robust enough to predict impacts at local and regional scales, but it is clear from the experience of the many people with whom we work, who have faced loss and damage this year alone, that everybody is vulnerable in some way.’’ – Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, 2013

Certain groups of people and areas are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than others. The IPCC describes vulnerability as ‘’the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes’’ (CED 2012). Vulnerable groups of people are for example the elderly, the infirm, children, native and tribal groups, and low-income populations (EPA 2013). Vulnerable areas are predominantly located in South and Southeast Asia and Africa with the top 3 of most vulnerable countries consisting of Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh (Standard & Poor 2014; Kreft and Eckstein 2013). Explanations for this are geographical and economical (EPA 2013; Standard & Poor 2014; Kreft and Eckstein 2013). Geographical, because certain areas are more often hit by climate change hazards, due to for example low sea-levels or because they are located close to the equator. Economical, because rich countries have better capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change (EPA 2013). The capacity to adapt to climate change influences how climate change affects individuals, communities, countries and the global population (EPA 2013). The IPCC describes vulnerability to climate change as being determined by three factors: exposure to hazards, sensitivity to hazards, and the capacity to adapt to hazards (Grantham Research Institute and Duncan Clark 2012; CED 2012).

Indonesia is located in Southeast Asia, which is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. The country is very vulnerable to the exposure of climate change hazards, because of its geographical location, subtropical climate, and the fact that it is an archipelago. Indonesia is also very sensitive to climate change hazards, since its GDP is for a large part (14,2%) dependent on agriculture (CIA 2015). Furthermore, Indonesia has limited capacity to adapt to hazards, since its economic status is still that of a developing country, and its GDP per capita in 2014 was $10,200 ranking 133th place worldwide (CIA 2015). Chapter 2 will continue on global climate change in Indonesia.

1.4 Impacts of global climate change

The main consequences of global climate change are increased temperatures, sea level rise, changes in precipitation, climate variability, and more intense and frequent events such as storms, floods, and cyclones (EPA 2013). Furthermore, primary needs such as food, water, health and shelter are climate related and therefore threatened by global warming (EPA 2013). The impacts of global climate change can already be observed in today’s world. For example, hurricanes got more intense over the past few years. Hurricanes arise from the temperature difference between the warm tropical ocean and the cold upper atmosphere (Bradford 2014). Furthermore, temperature differences are increasing and temperatures are getting more intense because of global warming (Bradford 2014). Meteorologists are already certain that 2015 will be the hottest year globally since record keeping began in 1895 ( 2015). A warmer climate will likely have significant effects on agriculture, forestry, ecosystems, natural habitats, human health, water resources, and sea level (Justus & Fletcher 2006).

The effects of climate change and its local impacts may be uncertain; however, according to Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, it is certain that impacts will come, and therefore it is necessary that citizens and business leaders worldwide press governments to act, in their own country and on the international stage (Chow 2013).

1.5 Responding to global climate change

Business leaders, government officials, and private citizens are becoming increasingly concerned about global climate change and its impacts (Bradford 2014). Some scientist argue that the Earth has the ability to heal itself by a natural process of removing anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere. However, according to Josef Werne (an associate professor in the department of geology and planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh) this process is too slow in order to preserve our cultural institutions as we know them now (Bradford 2014). It is therefore important to act immediately.

The response to the effects of global climate change is bilateral. On the one hand it includes mitigation (reducing emissions of and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere), while at the other hand it includes adaptation (adapting to the climate change already happening) (NASA 2015). Mitigation primarily includes decreasing the rate in which fossil fuels are burned and the development of clean energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal energy, which will reduce the amount of coals and oil burned in electrical generating plants (Bradford 2014). Moreover, mitigation includes the usage of more sustainable transportation methods, such as mass transit and alt-fuel vehicles, which is important to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere (Bradford 2014). But even if the most aggressive emission control measures would be taken, greenhouse gas concentrations will still rise (Metz et al 2001). Climate change is already happening and is inevitable to continue taking place in the future (Metz et al 2001). Therefore, adaptation to the effects of climate change is becoming increasingly important and recently even became a top governmental priority (CED 2012).

Chapter 2 – Global climate change in Indonesia

2.1 The climate of Indonesia

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world and is situated around the equator. Due to its geographical location the country has a tropical climate. There are two different seasons in Indonesia: a monsoon wet season and a dry season (Case et al 2007). From November to March the rainy season dominates the country by the north monsoon blowing from China, while from May to September the south monsoon dominates and blows from the Indian Ocean and Australia (NEA 2013). Rainfall in Indonesia is in general divided throughout the year and is mostly very heavy and accompanied by thunder (NEA 2013). Furthermore, there is a lot of sunshine in Indonesia and temperatures are high all year round (NEA 2013). Southern islands such as Timor are sometimes hit by strong winds and tropical cyclones from November to March (NEA 2013).

There are many volcanos and mountains in Indonesia. Therefore, there are many differences in climate within the country. In the hills temperatures are much lower, and the season and amount of rainfall differs per island (NEA 2013). The average rainfall in the lowlands is approximately 1.7 to 3.1 cm, while this can get up to 6.1 cm in the mountains (Case et al 2007).

Indonesia owns many different ecosystems (such as peat swamp forests, montane forests, sea and coastal systems) due to the country’s diversity in geography and climate (Case et al 2007). As a result of these many different ecosystems there are also high levels of biodiversity. The country possesses 10 percent of the world’s flowering plant species, 12 percent of the world’s mammals, 16 percent of the world’s reptile and amphibian species, 17 percent of the world’s birds, and 25 percent of all the world’s fish species (Case et al 2007).

The economy of Indonesia is very dependent on its natural ecosystems and the resources they bring (Case et al 2007). However, currently the sustainability of Indonesia’s ecosystems is under threat by various factors, such as increasing population, rapid industrialization, large-scale deforestation, wildfires, land conversion, habitat destruction, over-exploitation of marine resources, and a multitude of environmental problems associated with rapid urbanization, economic development and climate change (Case et al 2007).

2.2 Indonesia’s vulnerability to global climate change

As mentioned in the previous chapter, Indonesia is a country extremely vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change due to its exposure, sensitivity, and limited capacity to adapt to climate change hazards. The country has a high risk of sea-level rise, flooding, droughts, and landslides (Leitmann 2009). On the map on image 2 the sizes of the countries demonstrate the number of people living less than 5m above sea level. The larger the country, the more likely it will be exposed to rising sea levels in the future. Asia (and in particular Indonesia) is the largest region on this map. It has been researched that the sea-level rise due to global warming in the coastal areas of Indonesia will be increasing by 3 to 5 millimeter per year, which will result into more people being at risk of flooding and seawater intrusion (Soesilo 2014).

image 2

Image 2. Rise of sea level. Source: KILN.

The most vulnerable areas to global climate change in Indonesia are coastal areas, and the people most vulnerable are the ones living on the coast and those dependent on climate- sensitive agriculture or fisheries (EPA 2013). This means that 65 percent of Indonesians living in coastal areas will be affected (Leitmann 2009). Taking into account the country’s high vulnerability to climate change, one could suggest that Indonesia should undertake mitigation action sooner than later in order to prevent immense impacts. Furthermore, the country should enhance its ability to adapt to climate change already in the pipeline, especially in the most fragile ecosystems and vulnerable communities (Case et al 2007).

2.3 Observed climate change in Indonesia

Over the last century the overall surface air temperature in Asia has increased by 1 to 3 °C (Case et al 2007). In Indonesia the annual mean temperature has increased by about 0.3 °C since 1990 (Hulme and Sheard 1999). Annual precipitation in Indonesia has been overall decreasing by 2 to 3 percent since 1990 (Hulme and Sheard 1999). In the south of Indonesia there has been a decline in precipitation, while in the north there has been an increase in precipitation (Boer and Faqih 2004). The seasonality of precipitation has changed as well. In the south of Indonesia the rainfall in the wet season has increased, and the rainfall in the dry season has decreased, while in the north the opposite patterns were observed (Boer and Faqih 2004).

Precipitation in Indonesia is heavily influenced by El Niño-Southern Oscillation events (Case et al 2007). El Niño and La Niña are weather patterns that result from variations in ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific (NOAA 2015). El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of what is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO), which is a scientific term to describe the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific (NOAA 2015). El Niño is referred to as the warm phase of ENSO and La Niña as the cold phase (NOAA 2015). Indonesia generally experiences droughts during El Niño events and excessive rain during La Niña events (Case et al 2007). These fluctuations from normal surface temperatures can have large scale impacts on ocean processes, global weather, and climate (NOAA 2015). It has been predicted by several researchers that there will be more frequent and intense ENSO events in the future due to global warming, which will have regional impacts in Indonesia (Case et al 2007; Tsonis et al 2005).

2.4 Projected climate change in Indonesia

In the whole Southeast Asian region temperature and precipitation are both projected to increase in the future. Temperature is expected to increase from 0.7 to 3.92 °C, and precipitation is expected to decrease by 2 percent or increase by 12 percent at the end of this century (Case et al 2007; IPCC 2007). The temperature is projected to increase evenly across all of Indonesia with 0.1 to 0.3 °C per decade (Hulme and Sheard 1999) (see image 3). However, a more recent study projects the increase of temperature will be somewhat higher, that is to say 0.2 to 0.3 °C per decade (Boer and Faqih 2004).

image 3

Image 3. Change in mean annual temperature for the 30-year periods centered on the 2050s and 2080s for four IPCC emissions scenarios. Source: Hulme and Sheard 1999.

In contrast to the rate of warming, projected precipitation changes are projected to be more variable across Indonesia. Research suggests that annual rainfall will increase across the majority of the Indonesian islands, except for the southern regions of Indonesia (including Java) where it is projected to decline by 15 percent (Hulme and Sheard 1999) (see image 4). Nevertheless, it should be noted that there will be a significant difference in precipitation for different climate models, regions, and times of the years (Case et al 2007).

image 4

Image 4. Change in December-February and June-August rainfall (percent change from the average 1961-90 climate). Source: Hulme and Sheard 1999.

Moreover, changes in the timing and seasonality of precipitation are projected to change. A recent observation suggests it is likely that the annual monsoon could be delayed by 30 days due to changes in regional climate (Case et al 2007). Furthermore, there may be a 10 percent increase in rainfall later in the crop year (April-June), but a significant decrease of up to 75 percent later in the dry season (July-September) (Case et al 2007; Nayor et al 2007). As a result, regions in Indonesia with decreasing precipitation could face high drought risk, while regions with increasing precipitation could face high flood risk, and the frequency of extreme weather events could increase (Case et al 2007; Boer and Faqih 2004).

2.5 Impacts of global climate change in Indonesia

Impacts of climate change are already observed, and are projected to increase in the future due to human induced climate change (Case et al 2007). In general the global climate change model projects that Indonesia will experience sea-level rise, changes in the intensity of rainfall patterns which will increase the risk of floods and droughts, increase of surface and ocean temperatures, degradation of biodiversity, increased health risks, more frequent and intense weather events, and instability of the economy (Atteridge et al 2012; Case et al 2007). Below I will go further in detail on some of the most important climate change impacts in Indonesia.

1. The increase of sea surface level

Global sea-level rise is currently increasing by about 2 millimeter per year (IPCC 2007) and is expected to increase by 3 to 5 millimeter per year in the coastal areas of Indonesia due to global warming (Soesilo 2014). This will result in the loss of Indonesia’s coastline, islands, and associated marine resources, such as coral reefs, fisheries, and mangroves (Case et al 2007). Furthermore, sea-level rise multiplies the impact of cyclones in low-lying coastal zones (IPCC 2014). This is a major concern for Asia, since 90 percent of the global population that is exposed to tropical cyclones lives in Asia (IPCC 2014).

People living in low-lying coastal zones and flood plains are most likely to be at risk from these climate change impacts (IPCC 2014). This is a significant problem, since half of the urban population in Asia lives in these areas (IPCC 2014). In Indonesia even 60 percent of the population lives in coastal areas or low-lying coastal cities like Jakarta and Surabaya (Case et al 2007). As a result of rising sea-level the annual number of people flooded in coastal populations is increasing (Case et al 2007).

Furthermore, rising sea-level has socio-economic impacts on Indonesia’s society, since a large part of Indonesia’s population, industries, infrastructure, and most fertile agricultural lands are located in low-lying coastal areas (Case et al 2007).

2. Changes in the intensity and patterns of rainfall

Another impact of global climate change in Indonesia are the changes in the intensity and patterns of precipitation, which are a result of the increase of surface temperatures (Soesilo 2014). These changes cause a wetter climate in Sumatra and Kalimantan, but drier seasons in Java, Bali, and Nusa Tenggara (Soesilo 2014). Decreased rainfall during critical times of the year may increase high drought risk, while increased rainfall during already wet times of the year may lead to high flood risk (Soesilo 2014). Floods have substantial impacts on the population. As a result of the flood that took place in Jakarta in February 2015 more than 6,000 people had to be displaced to other locations, and 15,517 people were affected by the flood because their houses were inundated (Sentana 2015). Furthermore, floods in Jakarta often result in major traffic chaos making it unable for people to go to work (see image 5). This consequently results in economic losses. Floods also cause damage to buildings, property, and infrastructure (IFRC 2013). Sometimes floods even lead to death, such as the flood in Jakarta in January 2014 which led to 23 losses (Setiawati 2014).

image 5

Image 5. A flooded roundabout in Jakarta paralyzing traffic on 9 February 2015 after heavy overnight rains. Source: The Wall Street Journal.

Apart from floods in some areas and drought in others, changes in precipitation patterns also lead to a shift in seasonality and timing of rainfall. This in turn leads to unpredictable and uncertain water availability and consequently to uncertain availability to produce agricultural goods and economic instability (Case et al 2007). Furthermore, losses in food production as a result of climate change may increase the number of undernourished people in an unusual way and slow down progress against poverty and food insecurity (Case et al 2007; Wang et al 2006).

3. The increase of surface temperature

Indonesia’s biodiversity and ecosystem services are seriously threatened. Because of warming sea-surface temperatures and sea level rise, 50 percent of Indonesia’s total biodiversity is at risk and 80 percent of its coral reefs are in severe conditions (Soesilo 2014). The impacts of global warming on marine productivity are predicted to be strong, partly because coral reefs are very vulnerable to warming and ocean acidification (IPCC 2014). During the 1997-1998 El Niño event 34 percent of Asia’s coral reefs were stated to have been lost mainly due to coral bleaching as a result of high sea-surface temperatures (Case et al 2007).

Furthermore, as a result of warming sea-surface temperatures oceanic circulation patterns and salinity are changing, which is expected to lead to a reduction of primary production of many fish species in tropical oceans (Case et al 2007; IPCC 2014). Fish is very important to Asia; it is not only an essential element of regional livelihoods, it also is an important economic resource. Asia dominates capture fisheries as well as aquaculture (aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean) (Lymer et al 2008, NOAA 2015). In 2008, 85,5 percent of the world’s fishers (28 million) and fish farmers (10 million) were located in Asia (IPCC 2014). The impacts of warming sea-surface temperatures can make it increasingly difficult for Indonesia to meet food demand, and as a result the country may face economic losses (Case et al 2007).

Chapter 3 – The impacts of global climate change in Jakarta

3.1 Jakarta’s vulnerability to global climate change

In order to choose a region for this case study section, I studied climate change vulnerability maps of Southeast Asia. The map on image 6 shows which countries in the region are the most vulnerable to climate change. The countries in red are most vulnerable and are located in the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam. I also studied which provinces and districts in Southeast Asia are the most vulnerable to climate change. What seems is that the top 3 of most vulnerable provinces and districts in Southeast Asia are all located in Jakarta. This is illustrated on image 7. ‘VUL’ demonstrates the climate change vulnerability index, and ‘RANK’ stands for the rank of the province or district on the climate change vulnerability index of Southeast Asia. Central and North Jakarta both score 1.00 on the vulnerability index and rank first and second place of the whole Southeast Asian region, followed by West Jakarta, Mondol Kiri (Cambodia), East Jakarta, Rotanokiri (Cambodia), National Capital Region (Philippines), South Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya. Image 8 illustrates a map of the most vulnerable areas in Southeast Asia based on regional standard. Here it shows that the most vulnerable regions in Indonesia are indeed located around Jakarta.

image 6

Image 6. Climate change vulnerability map of Southeast Asia. Source: Yusuf & Francisco 2009.

image 7

Image 7. List of high vulnerable provinces/districts in Indonesia (Southeast Asia standard). Source: Yusuf & Francisco 2009.

image 8

Image 8. Map of the most vulnerable areas in Southeast Asia (regional standard). Source: Yusuf & Francisco 2009.


The maps on image 9 to 12 demonstrate how different types of climate change impacts (flood frequency, drought frequency, sea-level rise, and landslide exposure) are spread throughout Southeast Asia. It shows that especially flood frequency is very high around the Jakarta area. Drought frequency also scores high. Sea-level rise and landslide exposure are also present around the Jakarta area, but less severe.

 image 9-12

Source: Yusuf & Francisco 2009.

By studying climate change maps and statistics of the Southeast Asian region one can conclude that Jakarta is the most vulnerable region in Southeast Asia to the impacts of global climate change. This makes Jakarta an interesting subject of study. Another factor that adds up to the significance of Jakarta for this case study, is the fact that Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and has a population of 10,3 million people, which makes it one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world (CIA 2015). Therefore, climate change hazards occurring in Jakarta affect a large amount of people. Furthermore, Jakarta is the economic and political centre of Indonesia, thus the the impacts of climate change hazards in this area have a huge impact on the whole country.

3.2 Impacts of global climate change in Jakarta

The impacts of global climate change that coastal megacities in Asia are facing include flooding, sea-level rise, intensified storm and storm surges, manmade calamity such as pollution and excessive extraction of groundwater (Firman 2010; Firman et al 2011; Simarmata 2013). These climate change hazards result into loss of life and the damage of housing, infrastructure, regional and national economies (Firman 2010; Firman et al 2011). As shown on image 9 to 12 flooding is definitely the most severe impact of global climate change in the Jakarta area. In the next section I will go deeper into this subject.


Flooding is not necessarily a new problem in Jakarta; it has occurred throughout history (Ward et al 2014). The problem is that the impacts of flooding have increased during recent decades and are expected to increase even more in the future. This increase is caused by psychical changes such as land subsidence and erosion, but also by socioeconomic changes such as population growth and urban expansion (Ward et al 2014). Climate change exacerbates the impacts that are already there. Flooding risks in cities can be intensified by climate change in three ways: (1) from the sea (i.e. higher sea levels and storm surges); (2) from rainfall (especially by heavier rainfall and rainfall which is more prolonged than in the past); and (3) from changes that increase river flows (due to glacial melt for example) (Satterthwaite 2008).

It is forecasted that, if global warming continues at its current rate, some areas in Jakarta will be inundated by 2050 (Firman 2010; Measey 2010). Furthermore, many other areas in North and Central Jakarta are likely to be submerged in the future, which will cause major suffering for residents as a result of the physical and socio-economic impacts (Firman 2010). An example of one of the most severe floods in Jakarta is the flood of January 2013. This flood was induced by heavy seasonal rainfall and was aggravated by the collapse of a dike (Ward et al 2014). This flood took the lives of 47 people and destroyed more than 100,000 houses (Ward et al 2014). The economic loss is calculated to be about 3 billion US dollars (Ward et al 2014). Another severe flood that recently took place in Jakarta is the flood of February 2007, which is estimated to have caused an economic loss of 890 million US dollars (Ward et al 2014). This flood had an impact on 80 different districts and resulted into traffic chaos which immobilized the whole city (Measey 2010). More than 70,000 houses endured water levels between 5 to 10 cm, and about 430,000 people had to be displaced from their house (Measey 2010).

A significant problem in Jakarta regarding flood risk is the city’s lack of drainage and/ or storage capacity of waterways (Deltares 2009). This problem worsens the impacts of flooding in two ways: (1) the design capacity of the water infrastructure does not have the capacity to deal with the amount of water, and (2) the actual waterways’ discharge capacities are lower than their design capacities as a result of being clogged up by solid waste and/or sediments eroded from upstream (Ward et al 2014). Image 13 illustrates the drainage channels at the Manggarai Gate in Jakarta clogged up by garbage and solid waste. In the next section I will go further in detail on the subject of responding to the impacts of flooding and other climate change hazards in Jakarta.

image 13

Image 13. Drainage channels at Manggarai Gate in Jakarta are clogged up by garbage and solid waste. Source: Delta Alliance 2014.


3.3 Mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of global climate change in Jakarta

An increasing amount of government officials, business leaders, and private citizens are becoming increasingly aware and concerned about global climate change and its impacts, and they are proposing ways to reverse the trend (Bradford 2014). The citation below by Barack Obama illustrates this.

‘’We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.’’ – Barack Obama, January 21, 2013

The steps that can be undertaken to lessen the effects of global climate change are twofold and exist of mitigation (reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases and stabilizing the levels of these gases in the atmosphere), and adaptation (adapting to climate change already happening) (Bradford 2014). Jakarta does have policies relating to mitigation, such as a system of rapid mass transportation and a policy of conversion from kerosene to gas stove (Firman 2010). Furthermore, the Jakarta City Government plans to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent in 2030 (Firman 2010). Also, in the city technical flood measures are undertaken for better drainage and to prevent floods (CDC 2015). These measures include improving the maintenance, cleaning, and draining of waterways; improving and maintaining technical infrastructure; and improving the discharge capacity of rivers and retention capacity of the soil (CDC 2015).

Jakarta has also invested in adaptation to climate change, such as raising awareness, law enforcement, and early warning and emergency systems (CDC 2015). With regards to the flooding problem in the city, Jakarta is currently working on a Flood Management plan which includes the development of flood hazard maps and the development of shelters and FEWS (flood early warning systems) (CDC 2015). These flood hazard maps are important, because with these maps reasons and impacts of flooding can be understood better (CDC 2015). There are at least four planning activities in Jakarta that have examined adaptation to climate change, and they all principally suggest that Jakarta should build flood infrastructures to protect the city and reduce the vulnerability of north Jakarta (Simarmata 2013).

According to Fuchs (2010) ten actions should be undertaken to reduce climate change related risks: (1) raising awareness; (2) risks and vulnerability assessment analysis; (3) coastal flooding risk prediction and mapping; (4) flood protection works; (5) warning systems and evacuate planning; (6) land use spatial planning; (7) controlling land subsidence; (8) disaster response and relief; (9) improvement in governance capacities; and (10) incorporate climate change management into urban planning and governance.

Despite these actions, one could argue that Jakarta still has a long way to go when it comes to adapting strategies of adaptation to the impacts of global climate change. It seems that the main problem of urban adaptation planning in Jakarta is the overall lack of coordination between local institutions and governments. Another problem is that climate risk assessments have been conducted by different research and government institutions in a disintegrated way (CDC 2015; Firman 2010). For example, there appears to be no connection between risk assessment and urban development. The shortcomings of local institutions and governments are proven by the fact that multiple cases have been found of local communities that prefer to manage their own adaptation planning instead of the ones provided by the government (Simarmata 2013).



Indonesia is a country extremely vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change. Impacts include sea-level rise, changes in the intensity and patterns of rainfall, flooding, droughts, increase of surface and ocean temperatures, degradation of biodiversity, increased health risks, more frequent weather events, and the obstruction of social and economic development. Jakarta is the most vulnerable region in Indonesia, and even the most vulnerable region throughout whole Southeast Asia. The top 3 of most vulnerable regions in Southeast Asia are all located in Jakarta.

The most severe climate change impacts in Jakarta include flooding, drought, sea level rise and landslide exposure. These hazards result into the loss of life, damage of housing and infrastructure, and affects the economy. Flooding in particular is a major problem in Jakarta. The problem is only expected to exacerbate, since the frequency and intensity of floods are increasing as a result of global warming. Some areas in Jakarta are even predicted to be inundated by 2050.

The response to global climate change is bilateral and includes mitigation and adaptation. Even though Indonesia and Jakarta are undertaking steps towards mitigation and adaptation, they still have a long way to go. The main problem in Jakarta is the overall lack of coordination amongst all the different bodies that are involved. There is a serious need for more coordination and connection among local governments and agencies in order to improve adaptation planning.



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The Facts: 20 facts about climate change

Climate change is real and it is happening. Here are 20 facts about climate change.

1. Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

2. The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.

3. The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.

4. Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.

5. Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana’s Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.


6. Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching—or die-off in response to stress—ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.

7. An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfiresheat waves, and strong tropical storms, is also attributed in part to climate change by some experts.

8. Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth’s surface. (See an interactive feature on how global warming works.)

9. Humans are pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than plants and oceans can absorb it.

10. These gases persist in the atmosphere for years, meaning that even if such emissions were eliminated today, it would not immediately stop global warming.


11. Some experts point out that natural cycles in Earth’s orbit can alter the planet’s exposure to sunlight, which may explain the current trend. Earth has indeed experienced warming and cooling cycles roughly every hundred thousand years due to these orbital shifts, but such changes have occurred over the span of several centuries. Today’s changes have taken place over the past hundred years or less.

12. Other recent research has suggested that the effects of variations in the sun’s output are “negligible” as a factor in warming, but other, more complicated solar mechanisms could possibly play a role.

13. A follow-up report by the IPCC released in April 2007 warned that global warming could lead to large-scale food and water shortages and have catastrophic effects on wildlife.

14. Sea level could rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 to 59 centimeters) by century’s end, the IPCC’s February 2007 report projects. Rises of just 4 inches (10 centimeters) could flood many South Seas islands and swamp large parts of Southeast Asia.

15. Some hundred million people live within 3 feet (1 meter) of mean sea level, and much of the world’s population is concentrated in vulnerable coastal cities. In the U.S., Louisiana and Florida are especially at risk.

16. Glaciers around the world could melt, causing sea levels to rise while creating water shortages in regions dependent on runoff for fresh water.

17. Strong hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other natural disasters may become commonplace in many parts of the world. The growth of deserts may also cause food shortages in many places.

18. More than a million species face extinction from disappearing habitat, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans.

19. The ocean’s circulation system, known as the ocean conveyor belt, could be permanently altered, causing a mini-ice age in Western Europe and other rapid changes.

20. At some point in the future, warming could become uncontrollable by creating a so-called positive feedback effect. Rising temperatures could release additional greenhouse gases by unlocking methane in permafrost and undersea deposits, freeing carbon trapped in sea ice, and causing increased evaporation of water.

Source: National Geographic

Svartsengi Powerstation

Iceland wrongly receives worldwide praise for sustainability

WRITTEN BY | Lauren Bos
10 May 2017

Countries worldwide are highly impressed with the Icelandic policy on energy. But this is not completely justified, argues journalist Lauren Bos in her critical report about Iceland’s sustainable reputation. She went to Iceland to talk to the CEO of environmental organisation Landvernd, an engineer from HS Orka (the operator of Svartsengi-station, a huge geothermal energy station of which the waste water fills the pools of the The Blue Lagoon, the nation’s biggest tourist attraction); and a botany professor at the University of Iceland.

REYKJAVIK – It is 1 o’clock in the afternoon and the sky has an orange-pinkish colour. Since its rise that day, two hours earlier, the sun has been in a constant state of setting. The temperature outside is far below freezing and my thermo wear is not keeping me warm. Little creeks flow alongside the road. Steam is coming from the creeks and one is strongly discouraged from touching the steaming water.

In the upper north of Europe lies the obviously volcanic island that is Iceland. Besides the volcanic soil, the island is also home to the other extreme: ice, loads of ice. 3600 cubic kilometres of glaciers. This would be enough to cover the entire country of The Netherlands in an 8 centimetre thick layer of ice. All of this beautiful nature also has its uses. The country is known globally for its sustainable way of generating electricity through these natural resources. The ice water from the glaciers and the precipitation mainly help generating electricity (hydroelectric power). The soil stores heat, which is used to provide heating for the Icelandic households (geothermal energy). A month ago, during the Conference on Climate Change in Paris, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, claimed to want to take over Iceland’s policy on energy in Scotland. Furthermore, Dubai presented its report on its green economy of 2016 in the company of the Icelandic president. The other countries are highly impressed with the Icelandic policy on energy. But this is not completely justified.


The government of Iceland promotes its sustainable reputation and uses it to pull foreign companies that use loads of energy, such as aluminium factories, towards the country. According to Gudmundur Gudbrandsson, CEO of environmental organisation Landvernd, companies choose to locate to the island for a different reason. ‘’The energy here is so cheap, and companies are simply still economically minded.’’ The cheap energy is also the reason why Icelanders use by far the most energy in the world. Personally, I already feel guilty when I have left the light on in a room I have not been in for five minutes. After speaking to a couple residents, this feeling is unknown in Iceland, even after a whole day at work. ‘’When I come home from work and notice I have left the lights on all day, I do not really care. I barely see the consequences on my electricity bill,’’ says resident Jóhann Franks. Theódór, resident of Reykjavik, also admits to leaving the heat on when no one is home, even if he and his wife are on vacation for a month. ‘’We do not want to come home to a cold house,’’ he tells me at the kitchen table, grinning. He gives me an encouraging pat on the back when he sees the perplexed look on my face. They do not bother with timers for the heating. Neither do they care that the lights are on in several rooms, when the elderly couple moves to the living room to watch TV.


But what do these Icelandic energy-munching matter when the energy is sustainable anyway? The term sustainability knows multiple definitions. Countries mostly look at the CO2 emissions. They became apparent once more during the Conference on Climate Change in Paris. The conference was successful, because all participating countries agreed to do everything they can to lower their CO2 emissions and thereby save the Earth.  Lower CO2 emissions, in theory, would mean a lower rise of temperature. Ecosystems would stay intact for a longer period of time and next generations would have to deal with fewer consequences from their ancestors’ behavior. In short, the less carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the better. Iceland emits very low amounts of CO2, especially for a western country. It is because of this that it gets praised for its sustainable generation of energy by other countries.

Another definition of sustainability was given by the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987: ‘’Sustainable development is the development that corresponds with the needs of the present, without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to provide for their own needs. This obviously does not go for the fossil fuel supplies, which will run out in a couple years. Less obviously, this also does not go for Iceland’s natural resources. ‘’Iceland’s energy is able to recover itself, but that does not mean it is sustainable,’’ says Landvernd CEO Gunbrandsson. A fuel is only completely sustainable if it is generated in the same amount as it is used in an equal period of time. Then there always is an equal amount of energy present, which will leave the future generations with the same quantity.

Geothermal energy

Up ahead I can see several steam clouds rising up into the sky. They make the geothermal power stations easily recognizable. Even the visually impaired would be able to recognize the stations by the huge smell of sulphur flying into their nostrils. The Svartsengi-station is located in the southwest of Iceland, right next to one of the largest tourist attractions of the nation: thermal pool and spa, the Blue Lagoon. The popular spa is very connected to the geothermal power station. This is because Svartsengi’s waste water fills the pools of the Blue Lagoon. ‘’This station has a 190 Megawatt capacity, enough to facilitate more than 200.000 households with heating,’’ says Albert Albertsson proudly during our walk through the station. It is warm and it smells of rotten eggs. ‘’I cannot think of a nicer smell.’’ Albertsson is an engineer for HS Orka, the operator of the geothermal energy station. The volcanic activity on the island causes the underground water to be warmed by magma up to 100 degrees Celcius. The station pumps this boiling hot water to the surface to then spread it to thousands of households. The use of geothermal energy is risky. If a so called hotspot is used excessively for years, it does not get enough time to recover and preserve heat. This causes the hotspot to cool, which could take hundreds, even thousands of years according to scientists. Albertsson thinks this stance is a bit extreme. ‘’If a hotspot is overused for ten years, it will recover in ten years. I know this from experience.’’ To prevent cooling, part of the waste water is injected back into the ground. This way, the amount of fuel stays sufficient. Yet, Albertsson also agrees that hotspots will not be usable forever. ‘’We expect this station will be in use for another one hundred years, but nobody knows for sure.’’ This uncertainty is caused by earthquakes, which in turn are caused by the injection of the waste water back into the ground. These earthquakes could cause hotspots to become unusable, but they could also create new ones. Albertsson thinks the earthquakes will help him out. ‘’The biggest hotspots are already in use. Maybe an earthquake will open up another large hotspot.’’


‘’Ridiculous,’’ says Gudbrandsson. ‘’The only ones profiting from these earthquakes are geothermal energy exporters. The quakes cause turmoil amongst the Icelanders.’’ Gudbrandsson mostly blames the government for the excessive production of geothermal energy. ‘’The government does not attempt to limit the amount of energy that is allowed to be generated. Because of the pressure of energy-munching companies and the energy-export to other countries, the production keeps increasing and the chances of cooling get larger.


Nearly three-quarters of the in Iceland generated electricity comes from hydropower. The presence of natural hydropower can be observed through the entire country in the form of large waterfalls. These falls are still there during winter, when the average temperature is around freezing point and the supply of ice water from glaciers is at its lowest. The ice water supplies and precipitation are stored in huge reservoirs. The building of these reservoirs can throw local ecosystems for a loop. Fish get chopped up by the turbines that generate electricity from hydropower. This is being increasingly prevented through the building of fish-guiding systems, which guide fish away from the turbines. The bright, environmental friendly, sustainable image of hydropower in Iceland is missing some huge dark pieces,’’ says Þóra Ellen Þórhallsdóttir, botany professor at the University of Iceland. Þórhallsdóttir has been researching the use of hydropower and geothermal energy for seventeen years. Iceland is not running out of water, not even in hundreds of years. However, the rise of temperature make the glaciers melt fast. For now, that means a higher amount of energy being generated from hydropower than was expected. Nonetheless, researchers claim this will come to an end in about 200 years. ‘’It will still be raining in 200 years, but the patterns we observe in ice water will be completely different, both seasonally and spatially.’’ According to Þórhallsdóttir, this means the hydropower stations that are in use now will be completely useless in the future. ‘’The water will spread much more and there will be no more glaciers. It will be very expensive to trap this water.’’ So, hydropower will never run out, but new methods will have to be found in order to keep using it in the future.

It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the sky is getting increasingly darker. The sun has vanished below the horizon. Iceland was allowed five hours of sunshine today. I take a hot shower to become warm again. When first opening the tab, I burn my skin on the hot water beams from the showerhead. Well, that is what life is like using geothermal energy. For as long as it lasts.