Amazon Fires Not a Burning Issue

It’s not just the Amazon, though. Africa, Siberia, and Indonesia are also apparently going up in smoke. Claims The New York Times, “in central Africa, vast stretches of savanna are going up in flame. Arctic regions in Siberia are burning at a historic pace.”

Any reader of the New York Times and other mainstream media outlet would be forgiven for believing that fires globally are on the rise, but they aren’t.

In reality, there was a whopping 25 percent decrease in the area burned from 2003 to 2019, according to NASA.

Between 2003 and 2015, the area burned in Africa declined by an area the size of Texas (700,000 square kilometers or 270,000 square miles.

And against the picture painted by celebrities and the mainstream media that fires around the world are caused by economic growth, the truth is the opposite: the amount of land being burned is declining thanks to development, including urbanization.


As for the myth that the Amazon is the “lungs of the Earth” providing “20% of the world’s oxygen,” it appears to have been invented by a Malthusian Cornell University scientist in 1966, according to the George Mason University environmental philosopher, Mark Sagoff.

“In the 1960s, when ‘lungs of the earth’ was the big reason to save the rain forest,” Sagoff told me yesterday, “I got interested in it as a scientific question. I found no evidence that any tropical rainforest contributes to the net oxygen budget of the world.”

Sagoff sent me a 1966 an article by Cornell University scientist LaMont C. Cole in the journal BioScience. In it, Cole claimed that, as a result of burning fossil fuels, “the oxygen content of the atmosphere must start to decrease. I wish I could estimate how near we are to that frightening compensation point…”

In 1970,  climatologist Wallace S. Broecker explained why there was nothing to be frightened in an article in Science in June 1970. By 2000, he explained, burning fossil fuels would deplete just 0.2% of the Earth’s oxygen.