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Some Basic Realities versus Popular Lies in the Amazon Battle

Aug. 27, 2019 (EIRNS)—It is oft-repeated that the Amazon forest produces 20% of our world’s oxygen, and thereby serves as “the lungs of the planet.” That assertion is false: The net contribution to the world’s oxygen from the Amazon is effectively zero. In fact, EIR published material on this decades ago. Today, even some leading environmentalists are publicizing this scientific reality, out of overt fear that the backlash against the “lungs” lie could sink the bigger lie about “man-made climate change” they propagate.

Case in point: Yadvinder Malh, founding director of Oxford University’s Centre for Tropical Forests, who on Aug. 24 posted an entry on his blog debunking the “lungs” story, as follows:

The Amazon rainforest accounts for about 16% of the oxygen produced by land-based photosynthesis globally, he details. But when you add in the photosynthesis by phytoplankton in the oceans, which produces almost five times as much oxygen as the Amazon, the Amazon’s share of global oxygen drops to 9%.

Furthermore, at night, plants consume over half of the oxygen they produce during the day, through respiration. The remaining oxygen is consumed mainly by microbes breaking down dead leaves and wood (“heterotrophic respiration”). Thus, Malh explains, “the net contribution of the Amazon ecosystem (not just the plants alone) to the world’s oxygen is effectively zero. The same is pretty much true of any ecosystem on Earth, at least on the timescales that are relevant to humans (less than millions of years)” [emphasis in original].

Likewise, it is said that there are catastrophically more fires in Brazil’s Amazon this year. But NASA’s Earth Observatory reported on Aug. 22:

“As of Aug. 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years.... Though activity appears to be above average in the [Brazilian] states of Amazonas and Rondonia, it has so far appeared below average in Mato Grosso and Para.”

Neither is the Amazon forest burning down, IPCC environmentalist Daniel Nepstad told Forbes energy contributor Michael Shellenberger. Most of the fires that are burning in the Amazon region are in the dry scrub and tree areas that border the forest. Amazon forest fires are not detected by satellite because they are hidden by the tree canopy, Nepstad explains. “We don’t know if there are any more forest fires this year than in past years, which tells me there probably isn’t. I’ve been working on studying those fires for 25 years and our [on-the-ground] networks are tracking this.”

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