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-   -   Are we being lied to about the Amazon rainforest burning's effect on earth's oxygen levels? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=881159)

Urbanredneck 08-28-2019 02:47 PM

Are we being lied to about the Amazon rainforest burning's effect on earth's oxygen levels?
 
Now, I dont know, but I just read this article in the Atlantic that debunks the story that 20% of the worlds oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforests and as they burn, so will our planets oxygen.

I dont know. I dont like taking just one writers word. Are there any other sources to look into this?

Shodan 08-28-2019 03:02 PM

Science stories in general, and environmental stories in particular, are not things the media handles well. They need to attract attention, rather than educate.

The 20% claim is an exaggeration. That doesn't make the fires a non-event, but if they don't make it sound like a crisis, people won't react.

The figure I heard (eventually) is 5%, and that's for the whole Amazon. And the whole Amazon isn't burning. Yes, deforestation is bad.

Regards,
Shodan

RitterSport 08-28-2019 03:38 PM

Who is lying to you? Looks like the Atlantic isn't. Snopes isn't. Forbes isn't.

pool 08-28-2019 04:23 PM

Well to be fair, I think the fire is the only way to drive away the poison tree frogs that guard El Dorado and finally reclaim its lost golden riches.

DSeid 08-28-2019 08:27 PM

Related questions to throw out -

What fraction of the world CO2 sequestration is by the Amazon?

How much CO2 is being release by the current fires and how quickly will forest regrowth recapture how much of it?

Shodan 08-29-2019 09:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSeid (Post 21831004)
Related questions to throw out -

What fraction of the world CO2 sequestration is by the Amazon?

How much CO2 is being release by the current fires and how quickly will forest regrowth recapture how much of it?

As to your first question, I don't know. From the piece I heard on NPR, the issue is that they are burning trees to clear for farm land.

I don't know how much a mature forest sequesters. New trees replacing old ones wouldn't sequester all that much - more a steady state. AIUI the issue is that the trees are being burned, the land is used for farming, and since the land isn't that great for farming, the farm land is abandoned after a few years and the trees are then replaced by shrubs and grass, which probably doesn't absorb much CO2 overall.

The scientist I heard on NPR talked more about the Amazon being a cooling system. The evaporation or condensation of water, which is enhanced by the cover provided by trees (and not by farm land) absorbs heat from the environment.

Obviously fires would release heat as well as CO2.

Regards,
Shodan

bump 08-29-2019 09:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Shodan (Post 21831674)
The scientist I heard on NPR talked more about the Amazon being a cooling system. The evaporation or condensation of water, which is enhanced by the cover provided by trees (and not by farm land) absorbs heat from the environment.

Obviously fires would release heat as well as CO2.

Regards,
Shodan

I'd actually read the cooling aspect as being a large component of weather- if a large proportion of the Amazon was to burn, you'd get weird changes in weather as a result.

Plus, the bigger risk is that apparently that sort of rainforest has some kind of critical mass to function, and if too much is destroyed, it'll change into more of a savannah-type biome.

nelliebly 08-29-2019 12:08 PM

Urbanredneck, serious question: did you read the entire article or quit when you got to the part that said burning the Amazon doesn't affect the world's supply of oxygen? Just curious as to what you thought about what the article said the real danger to the earth's oxygen supply is.

RitterSport 08-29-2019 12:28 PM

I still want to know who is lying to the OP. I'll add this message board to the places that aren't lying:

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=880887

Urbanredneck 08-29-2019 02:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RitterSport (Post 21832023)
I still want to know who is lying to the OP. I'll add this message board to the places that aren't lying:

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=880887

They broadcasted it on the news. I think NBC or something.

RitterSport 08-29-2019 02:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21832260)
They broadcasted it on the news. I think NBC or something.

Well, maybe you could find a video or something, but my impression is that the Amazon fires may be getting more coverage than they need to (apparently, this isn't even the biggest year for fires), but the coverage I've read has accurately portrayed the problems with the fire.

TV news is even worse for science coverage than print news is, of course.

Shodan 08-29-2019 03:24 PM

The French President, Macron, made the claim. He's not a journalist, nor a scientist, of course.

Regards,
Shodan

RitterSport 08-29-2019 03:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Shodan (Post 21832363)
The French President, Macron, made the claim. He's not a journalist, nor a scientist, of course.

Regards,
Shodan

Yeah, maybe the OP saw reporting of a politician getting it wrong and thought it was the media itself lying?

ETA: Vox should have corrected Macron's factual error, of course.

Urbanredneck 08-29-2019 04:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RitterSport (Post 21832266)
Well, maybe you could find a video or something, but my impression is that the Amazon fires may be getting more coverage than they need to (apparently, this isn't even the biggest year for fires), but the coverage I've read has accurately portrayed the problems with the fire.

TV news is even worse for science coverage than print news is, of course.

I saw this on the CNN site. They mention the 20% figure towards the end. I do notice they dont give any real "source" for that figure only say "environmentalists".

XT 08-29-2019 04:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RitterSport (Post 21832266)
Well, maybe you could find a video or something, but my impression is that the Amazon fires may be getting more coverage than they need to (apparently, this isn't even the biggest year for fires), but the coverage I've read has accurately portrayed the problems with the fire.

TV news is even worse for science coverage than print news is, of course.

I think it's getting more coverage because the new president of Brazil has rolled back a lot of the environmental legislature, and basically the fires this year are not just happening...they are caused by humans deliberately setting them in efforts to basically grab the land for use by cattle grazing and away from the indigenous, and using the new legislative conditions (or lack there of) to do so. Couple that with the already high levels of Amazon deforestation and you have a real issue that is having a serious impact.

As to the OP, I don't know what the exact figure is, but the main problem I know of isn't with oxygen but with moisture in the air. Rain forests create a lot of the 'rain' part of that equation, and the Amazon actually creates a lot of weather just by its existence and operation, including a lot of the moisture we get in the north. This is all being disrupted by the extensive cutting and burning for clearing out the land for other use (cattle basically). And this leaves aside the indigenous peoples that live there...just the environmental impact is huge. Whether it is in fact 20% of the oxygen is beside the point that it's a major environmental issue that is being allowed to expand (it was already happening) due to the current government in Brazil (who seems to be using our own president as a model for how things should be run).

Urbanredneck 08-29-2019 04:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by XT (Post 21832512)

As to the OP, I don't know what the exact figure is, but the main problem I know of isn't with oxygen but with moisture in the air. Rain forests create a lot of the 'rain' part of that equation, and the Amazon actually creates a lot of weather just by its existence and operation, including a lot of the moisture we get in the north. This is all being disrupted by the extensive cutting and burning for clearing out the land for other use (cattle basically). And this leaves aside the indigenous peoples that live there...just the environmental impact is huge. Whether it is in fact 20% of the oxygen is beside the point that it's a major environmental issue that is being allowed to expand (it was already happening) due to the current government in Brazil (who seems to be using our own president as a model for how things should be run).

Dont get me wrong, I hate the idea of virgin forests going away.

However on the other side I know we here in the US did this long ago so how do we have the right to tell Brazilians not to do the same? It's kind of racist and arrogant.

My original post was just about the 20% number.

XT 08-29-2019 04:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21832523)
Dont get me wrong, I hate the idea of virgin forests going away.

However on the other side I know we here in the US did this long ago so how do we have the right to tell Brazilians not to do the same? It's kind of racist and arrogant.

My original post was just about the 20% number.

The Amazon rain forest is completely different wrt it's environmental impact and also just how it works to the forests we had in North America. It has a MUCH larger impact than our forest did, and also because of how it works the environmental impact locally is much higher due to the fact that the soil is compared to how our soil is/was. It's apples to orangutans.

No, it's not racist OR arrogant to call the Brazilians out on this or to ask them what the fuck they are doing. Just the opposite, in fact, because it DOES have such a large external impact. And this leaves aside the fact that this is basically a land grab by some elements in Brazil to burn out the indigenous peoples in the region and get them off the land. It's something we should ALSO care about.

As for the 20% figure, I take all such things with a grain of salt...hell, a mountain of salt. The press is, generally, going to just repeat memes and bullshit stats. They aren't lying deliberately...it has a large non-zero impact, and 20% sounds good. Whether it is, in fact, 5% or 20% is really not the point. The press also hasn't mentioned the other impacts that are more critical, as they want to just make the point that it will have an impact and 'oxygen' is something people can grasp (while if they mention rain and moisture folks eyes will glaze over or they will be confused, and gods forbid they talk about the carbon impact).

HMS Irruncible 08-29-2019 04:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21830529)
Now, I dont know, but I just read this article in the Atlantic that debunks the story that 20% of the worlds oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforests and as they burn, so will our planets oxygen.

I find Atlantic to be an extremely credible news outlet, so if they say the Amazon is not the earth's lung and it makes no important oxygen contribution, then I will trust them and stop repeating that trope starting now.

But, the truth in that article is just as disturbing. If I'm reading correctly, then most of our atmospheric oxygen actually comes from buried carbon. So we're depleting our global oxygen reserves as we slowly mine and burn fossil fuels.

Still, I personally think we should refrain from burning the Amazon, because even if it isn't exactly the earth's lung, it influences the weather, it's a huge source of biodiversity, it supports ecosystems that we don't understand, and nobody really knows what could happen if we lose it. Plus I've never seen it.

HMS Irruncible 08-29-2019 04:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21832523)
However on the other side I know we here in the US did this long ago so how do we have the right to tell Brazilians not to do the same? It's kind of racist and arrogant.

We're Americans, that's what we do. Might as well do it for good reasons. (sarcasm)

More to the point, who are the Brazilians? The Europeans who conquered it and want to burn it down, or the native (south) Americans who live in that forest and depend on it? I would humbly suggest maybe the people who have lived there 10,000 years ought to have a bigger say than the European colonist government.

begbert2 08-29-2019 04:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HMS Irruncible (Post 21832555)
More to the point, who are the Brazilians? The Europeans who conquered it and want to burn it down, or the native (south) Americans who live in that forest and depend on it? I would humbly suggest maybe the people who have lived there 10,000 years ought to have a bigger say than the European colonist government.

By this argument, if the natives up and decided to burn the place down we should support it.

I'm not sure I like this argument.

Urbanredneck 08-29-2019 10:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by begbert2 (Post 21832565)
By this argument, if the natives up and decided to burn the place down we should support it.

I'm not sure I like this argument.

Or lets say those natives get tired of living a primitive lifestyle and support building a road and power lines into their village.

Urbanredneck 08-29-2019 10:14 PM

They should be happy to live their primitive life and run around naked so rich western eco types can go down and take their picture.

Odesio 08-29-2019 11:20 PM

I think Brazil should charge the world an air tax. They could spend that money employing their citizens to maintain the integrity of the rain forest.

eburacum45 08-30-2019 05:56 AM

Please read my contributions to the earlier thread. Especially these posts.
https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...8&postcount=36
https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...4&postcount=45

In short, the oxygen levels will not be measurably affected by the Amazon fires. But the carbon dioxide levels could be severely affected.

Left Hand of Dorkness 08-30-2019 05:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21832896)
They should be happy to live their primitive life and run around naked so rich western eco types can go down and take their picture.

Which indigenous Brazilian have you listened to, or spoken with, or read the writings of, that leads you to think this is anything remotely related to reality? I mean, since you're calling folks racist and all.

Ludovic 08-30-2019 06:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness (Post 21833136)
Which indigenous Brazilian have you listened to, or spoken with, or read the writings of, that leads you to think this is anything remotely related to reality? I mean, since you're calling folks racist and all.

Dontcha know, if it weren't for meddling rich foreigners, the indigenous people would willingly sell their land for a fair and openly negotiated price and move to a nice quiet suburb and take up knitting.

HMS Irruncible 08-30-2019 07:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by begbert2 (Post 21832565)
By this argument, if the natives up and decided to burn the place down we should support it.

The argument is that we should more heavily weight the preferences of the original people who live in that forest and derive their entire livelihoods from it.

To be logically consistent, that would mean we weigh their opinions more if they want to burn it down. But even an elementary view of history shows that natives consistently are the ones who want to preserve their forests while drooling capitalist morons want to destroy it for extractive purposes.

Urbanredneck 08-30-2019 08:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ludovic (Post 21833165)
Dontcha know, if it weren't for meddling rich foreigners, the indigenous people would willingly sell their land for a fair and openly negotiated price and move to a nice quiet suburb and take up knitting.

Kind of arrogant of you. What if they just want a damn higher standard of living than living in a mud hut? What if they want a way to have commerce and trade with the outside world? What if they want electricity?

thorny locust 08-30-2019 08:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21832523)
Dont get me wrong, I hate the idea of virgin forests going away.

However on the other side I know we here in the US did this long ago so how do we have the right to tell Brazilians not to do the same? It's kind of racist and arrogant..

'We did something terrible so everyone else should get to do it also' isn't a very good argument.

'We got rich by doing terrible things so we should spend some of that money paying other people not to do the same terrible things' is a pretty good one, IMO. But just 'even though we found out that was a bad idea everybody gets one round of doing it anyway' isn't.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21833273)
Kind of arrogant of you. What if they just want a damn higher standard of living than living in a mud hut? What if they want a way to have commerce and trade with the outside world? What if they want electricity?

How about we pay attention to what indigenous people are actually saying?

I haven't time right now to make a study of the issue, and I'm sure they're not all saying the same thing. But I've seen at least a couple of articles showing indigenous people at the forefront of protests against the fires. And I have no idea whether they're living in "mud huts" with no electricity, let alone whether if they are they prefer living in their own mud huts to renting in high rises.

For that matter, there are lots of ways to have commerce and trade with the outside world, and even to get electricity, many of which don't require burning down one's home first.

HMS Irruncible 08-30-2019 09:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21833273)
Kind of arrogant of you. What if they just want a damn higher standard of living than living in a mud hut? What if they want a way to have commerce and trade with the outside world? What if they want electricity?

What if they don't?

Akaj 08-30-2019 10:06 AM

BBC had a good article earlier this week sorting out the falsehoods and realities: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49450925

That article linked to another one, in which one graphic showed the acres de-forested in July were 2.5 times the previous worst month (although the chart only goes back to 2015): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767

Left Hand of Dorkness 08-30-2019 10:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21833273)
Kind of arrogant of you. What if they just want a damn higher standard of living than living in a mud hut? What if they want a way to have commerce and trade with the outside world? What if they want electricity?

Remind me again of what position is racist? Christ almighty.

DSeid 08-30-2019 10:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Akaj (Post 21833503)
BBC had a good article earlier this week sorting out the falsehoods and realities: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49450925

That article linked to another one, in which one graphic showed the acres de-forested in July were 2.5 times the previous worst month (although the chart only goes back to 2015): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767

Thanks for that great link which answers some of my questions.

Some worth pulling out -
Quote:

So far this year, the equivalent of 228 megatonnes has been released, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. This is the highest level since 2010. ...

... there is a case to be made that some fire-adapted forests benefit from fires - they can help clear the forest and allow trees space to grow stronger.

But this is not the situation right now in the Amazon, says Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford. "These are fires that we are concerned about," he says. The humid forests of the Amazon have no adaptation to fire and suffer immense damage. Almost all fires in humid forests are started by people. ... "The forest takes around 20-40 years if it's allowed to regenerate," says Prof Malhi.

But any fires that are currently burning will leave the surviving trees more vulnerable to drought and repeated fires. ...

... the immediate effect of the fires will be on the climate of South America. Reduced rain fall is likely, leading to a more intensive dry season.

"The carbon emission could contribute to global warming," he adds, but the longer term global impact is "more difficult to pin down".

In the long-term, scientists have told the BBC the fires could make the Paris climate target more difficult to achieve. ...

... "It's hard to overstate the importance of these forests for indigenous peoples," he says. "They depend on them for food, medicines, clothing and a sense of identity and belonging.

But the incentives to steal these resources are high and "sadly it's not a question of one or two rogue actors", Mr Mazower says. He says this could be the "worst moment for the indigenous people of the Amazon" since the military dictatorship, which ended in the 1980s. ...
Great article. Thanks again for the link.

Urbanredneck 08-30-2019 02:31 PM

I think it's clear that the fires themselves are bad enough for many reasons but one doesnt have to say it's 20% of the worlds oxygen to make a point how important the amazon is.

GIGObuster 08-30-2019 11:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Urbanredneck (Post 21833881)
I think it's clear that the fires themselves are bad enough for many reasons but one doesnt have to say it's 20% of the worlds oxygen to make a point how important the amazon is.

Indeed, but I will have to point out here that mainstream media was already well known for getting things wrong about science.

Point here that it is almost obligatory to point out that thereafter a lot of the media from the right and blogessors then grab those errors and then make a huge talking point about 'most scientists getting wrong' regarding an issue like climate science when it was the news writers who did get it wrong.

What scientists are saying is not the same as the mainstream reports it, and then it is even less so when the right wing media gets to it when their intention is to seed doubts not only about non-right wing media but about the science itself. That crucial part about the science being more accurate than the media is usually skipped when histories like this one are 'examined' later.

pmwgreen 09-07-2019 02:13 PM

To go back to the OP, I'd say no, we aren't being lied to. We just aren't paying attention. You have to pick your sources. I don't watch CNN, but all I seem to read is stories about how the Amazon isn't responsible for 20 percent of the O2. For example, here's a Chicago Tribune headline "Is the Amazon the ‘lungs of the world’? Northwestern scientist says rainforest not source of 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen, but fires can add to greenhouse effect" which is true. Macron misspoke. I'm not going to say he lied, but he's been corrected over and over.

The general population seems to think that O2 and CO2 are roughly equal parts of the atmosphere, whereas O2 is a fifth of the atmosphere, and CO2 is measured in parts per million. A trivial amount but that slight amount of CO2 helps kept warm. Unfortunately, it's gone up about 25% (320ppm to 400ppm) just over my lifetime, so now that's keeping us more than a bit too warm. I don't know the effect of burning a rain-forest, but it's not going to take a lot of CO2 to shift the curve up still more.


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