Burning the truth

We're told by the media that fires are burning at a record rate in the Amazon forest, that the number of fires in 2019 is up by 80 per cent, "without precedent in the past 20,000 years."

Ready, set, panic.

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But how much of the hysteria is factually based? Basically none.

The Amazon has wetter years and dryer years. This year is dry for them (the opposite of what we experienced here where this was a wet year while the last two years were dry with lots of fires). While the number of Amazon fires in 2019 is indeed 80 per cent higher than in 2018 (when it was wet there) it's just seven per cent higher than the average over the last 10 years and only about half what they were fifteen years ago.

And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have. The pictures of raging infernos tweeted around the world by Hollywood A-listers and politicians are stock footage, some as old as 30 years ago, from places as far away as Montana, India, and Sweden. Amazon forest fires just don't behave spectacularly enough to provide the photo ops needed to promote the concern.

Most of the Amazon fires are of the burning dry scrub and trees that had been previously cut down for agriculture, and even at that, such deforestation has dropped by almost 70 per cent since 2004.

But it's the lungs of the earth, producing 20 per cent of the earth's oxygen, so doesn't our very survival depend on the Amazon?

No, that's another myth.

Yabinder Malhi, professor of ecosystem science at the University of Oxford and an expert in tropical forests, program leader of ecosystems research of the Environmental Change Institute, senior research fellow of the Institute of the Environment, UCLA, etc. says the idea is absurd, the net oxygen contribution of the Amazon ecosystem is zero.

Senior environmental scientist Daniel Nepstad, a lead author of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, president and founder of the Earth Innovation Institute, who has worked in the Amazon for over 30 years said the claim that the Amazon produces 20 per cent of the world's oxygen "is bullshit, there's no science behind that. The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen but it uses the same amount of oxygen through respiration so it's a wash."

So why all the hysteria now when there was no concern 15 years ago when there was twice as much burning? Why all the outrage and blame directed against Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro but not the leaders of neighbouring nations like Bolivia where fires are also burning? Why was there no concern and no outrage and blame directed against former Brazilian President Lula and Environment Secretary Marina Silva when Brazil had twice as much burning? Why wasn't governor Jerry Brown condemned when fires raged through California? Or Justin Trudeau when B.C. burned for the past two summers?

Because it's not about the fires, it's not about the Amazon, it's not about the environment. It's really about politics. Lula and Silva were of the socialist Workers Party. Bolsonaro is a conservative.

The outrage is because he had the temerity to win the election and then govern like a conservative. It's because he has ended the practice of catering to the environmentalists and basically told the IPCC where to shove its accords. For that he must be condemned and punished in any way possible.

Art Betke

Prince George

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