The United Nations climate change panel says seas could rise by up to 59 centimeters by 2100 due to warmer global temperatures. Indonesia, according to the government, is experiencing a sea level rise of about 0.8 mm per year. This is the fourth article in a series on climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The sea poses both a threat and opportunity for coastal communities in Indonesia -- a sprawling archipelago with some 17,000 islands -- in facing global warming.
Rising sea levels are expected to submerge smaller islands while at the same time the sea can be used as a carbon sink to help the world mitigate human-induced climate change.
The ministry of maritime and fishery affairs says Indonesia's seas have the capacity to store up to 245 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main driver of climate change.
The ministry also predicts that some 61,000 square kilometers of coral reef could absorb 73.5 million tons of CO2 per year. The existing 93,000 hectares of mangrove forest could store 75.4 million tons of CO2 and phytoplankton species could handle some 11 million tons of carbon.
In addition to rising sea levels, global warming could also alter sea water's acidity and temperature, the ministry says, as well as forming more frequent weather extremes such as high sea waves and tropical storms.
The ministry predicts that a meter in sea level rises could swamp 405,000 hectares of coastal areas and 2,000 small islands while damaging coral reefs.
A plan of action on mitigation says that the government would develop more mangrove forests to help coastal communities fend off rising seas and stronger tropical storms.
Mangroves provide a habitat for shrimps and small fish, break up waves and retain silt and soil, preventing them from damaging coral reefs.
Mangroves also keep rising sea levels at bay, up to a certain extent, giving communities more time to adjust.
The action plan says the government would promote integrated coastal management to improve the quality of rivers and coastal areas as well as setting up early earning systems for extreme weather.
For fishing communities, the government intends to develop eco-friendly fishing facilities such as boats that could resist high waves.
Meanwhile, scientists have been urged to review the sea's potential to store CO2.
Six Southeast Asian and Pacific nations, including Indonesia, recently launched an initiative to save the "Coral Triangle", which contains more than half of the world's reefs, during the Bali climate change summit.
It is estimated that there are more than 600 species of coral and more than 3,000 species of plants and fish living in the waters encompassing the Philippines, Timor Leste, parts of Indonesia and Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.