Fires tearing through the Amazon have been a huge topic of discussion recently, and rightly so, however a climate scientist has pointed out one widely-shared fact about the rainforest is actually incorrect.
Cast your mind back to primary school and you might remember learning about photosynthesis; the process through which, at the most basic level, plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
The Amazon rainforest covers 5.5 million km², with about 60 per cent falling in Brazil and the rest extending into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries.
With this in mind, it would be safe to assume the trees there give off a lot of oxygen.
The forest is described as the ‘lungs of the planet’ and as fires continue to destroy it there is a lot of concern for the environmental impacts.
When discussing the issue, many people have credited the Amazon with providing 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted:
Our house is burning – literally.
The Amazon rainforest – the lungs which produce 20 per cent 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!
There’s no doubting the rainforest is a vital part of our planet but the claim about its oxygen production is actually far from the truth.
Professor Michael E. Mann, one of the world’s most prominent climate scientists, took to Twitter on Friday (August 23) to set people straight, saying the Amazon actually produces about six per cent of the world’s oxygen.
The 20 percent figure IS too high. True number closer to 6 per cent as per Jon Foley… and even this is misleading because oxygen levels wouldn’t actually drop by 6 per cent if we deforested the Amazon.
According to IFL Science, when it comes to our human timescale the total bank of breathable oxygen in the atmosphere remains almost undisturbed by land use and is more swayed by colossal geological-scale changes.
Scott Denning, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, explains in The Conversation virtually all of the oxygen produced by photosynthesis each year is consumed by living organisms and fires, while nearly all of Earth’s breathable oxygen originated in the oceans.
Denning adds that even if all the organic matter on Earth was burned at once, less than one per cent of the world’s oxygen would be consumed.
However, just because the Amazon fires aren’t depleting Earth’s oxygen supply doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about them.
Though world leaders are urging for action to be taken, the Brazilian government rejected $22 million pledged by the G7 to help fight the raging fires in the Amazon. They later accepted $12 million from the British government, according to The New York Times.
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Michael E. Mann/Twitter
The New York Times
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