World Tribune / August 27, 2019
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Aug. 22: “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”
But is the panic over fires in the Amazon overblown?
It appears so, according to NASA, which said that current fire activity in the region is at or below average.
“As of August 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. (The Amazon spreads across Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and parts of other countries.),” NASA said.
“Though activity appears to be above average in the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, it has so far appeared below average in Mato Grosso and Pará, according to estimates from the Global Fire Emissions Database, a research project that compiles and analyzes NASA data.”
Additionally, the claim from Macron and many others that the Amazon is responsible for producing 20 percent of the world’s usable oxygen “is simply not true, despite being commonly cited to intensify hysteria,” Chris Enloe noted in an Aug. 25 report for The Blaze.
Enloe cited global environmental scientist Dr. Jonathan Foley, who tweeted: “Despite the widespread claim, the Amazon doesn’t produce 20% of the world’s oxygen. It’s more like ~6%. Also, the forests are being replaced by pastures and croplands, which also do photosynthesis and produce similar amounts of oxygen.”
Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, tweeted: “The 20% figure IS too high. True number closer to 6% as per Jon Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy) and even this is misleading because oxygen levels wouldn’t actually drop by 6% if we deforested the Amazon.”
Meanwhile, fact-checks by several news outlets found that many if not most of the photos used by assorted politicians and celebrities showing the Amazon ablaze were from other fires, including those in California and India, or from Amazon fires in previous years, Valerie Richardson noted in an Aug. 25 report for The Washington Times.
In fact, Richardson noted, Macron attached a photo to his Aug. 22 tweet which was taken by Loren McIntyre, a photographer who died in 2003. The same photo was posted on Instagram by actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio.
Madonna, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic and American rapper Jaden Smith shared a photo that did show an Amazon fire, but the image was taken in 1989, according to AFP, which labeled the photos “misleading.”
“There are very real fires burning in the Amazon and they do deserve more coverage, but there’s a big problem with this viral campaign: Most of the photos claiming to show the fires are fakes,” Mother Jones noted.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he wouldn’t make a final decision on accepting $22 million from Group of Seven nations top help fight the Amazon fires until Macron apologized for remarks that Bolsonaro considered a challenge to his credibility and an attack on Brazil’s sovereignty, MSN reported.
“Before speaking or accepting anything from France, even if it comes from the best possible intentions, he must retract his words. Then we can talk,” Bolsonaro told journalists.
According to the MSN report, “Macron threatened last week to block a free-trade agreement between the European Union and South America, saying Bolsonaro had lied to him about his commitment to the environment.”