Not only is Australia having a rough start to the new year. The Indonesian capital Jakarta and the surrounding areas have been inundated by rain, causing landslides and floods that have killed dozens of people.
As of Tuesday, torrential rains have killed at least 67 people as rising waters flooded more than 180 neighborhoods and landslides buried at least a dozen Indonesians. Search missions for survivors are still ongoing, and authorities say the death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are found.
Indonesia's national meteorological agency said the rain on New Year's Day was the heaviest rain in a 24-hour period since Dutch settlers began keeping records in the 1860s. Although the floods are beginning to subside, the Red Cross Indonesia has warned people to expect more severe rains in the coming days.
The communities most vulnerable to flooding are those in poor neighborhoods, especially slums located near sewage, which can spread pathogens when combined with flooding. More than 1,000 soldiers and health workers were dispatched to use disinfectant sprays in these areas Sunday to prevent the spread of the disease.
Jakarta, home to some 10 million people, is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and extreme weather. It also has dangerous levels of air pollution and the largest open landfill in Southeast Asia.
In addition to that, the rapidly growing population of the city has faced severe water shortages in recent years due to groundwater shortages. Meanwhile, rivers are polluted with garbage, and researchers say that at least 20 tons of garbage is dumped in Jakarta Bay every day.
The city sinks as fast as 9 inches a year in some neighborhoods, and about half is already below sea level. The country is also the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, mainly due to the country's deforestation habit.
If Indonesia and the rest of the world do not take steps to drastically reduce emissions, the researchers say 95 percent of North Jakarta will be submerged by 2050.
The country has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 29 percent by 2030 as part of the Paris Agreement, but the government is still willing to rely on coal to generate electricity for the next decade. And a recent poll by YouGov and Cambridge University revealed that a whopping 18 percent of Indonesians believe there is no link between human activity and the climate crisis.
Last summer, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced that the capital city will move to the island of Borneo, hundreds of miles northeast of Jakarta, by 2023. But that doesn't mean it acknowledges the climate crisis.
"I don't think the weather is necessarily the reason for the Indonesian government to move the capital," said Rukka Sombolinggi, an indigenous leader from the Toraja ethnic group, during a press conference at the United Nations General Assembly last year. "It's simply because the capital is crowded and crowded, which makes the traffic and the quality of the air and water terribly alarming."
The irony is that Indonesia also possesses one of the most effective tools for fighting climate change: mangroves. These tall trees that grow in coastal waters can remove and store carbon that humans have released into the atmosphere.
But instead of protecting and expanding mangrove ecosystems, the government has continued to allow corporations to cut down and burn mangroves for palm oil production, thereby producing more carbon emissions.
And even in the wake of the devastating floods, the Indonesian government plans to stay the course. Two government ministers told Reuters this week they have no plans to change their climate policy after the New Year's floods.
But the head of the country's meteorological agency said nothing about the impact of climate change on the severity of the floods. "The impact of a 1-degree increase can be severe," Dwikorita Karnawati told reporters on Friday. "Among that are these floods."