NASA: There's Been 'an Overall Drop in Natural and Human-Caused Fires Worldwide'

By Kharen Martinez Murcia | September 5, 2019 | 1:06pm EDT
(Getty Images)

Although the liberal media are reporting that fires in the Amazon and in Africa apparently are the result, to some degree, of climate change and that the Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, data from NASA show that fires globally have fallen 24% since 1998. 

Further, Forbes reports that burning fossil fuels has not contributed in any significant way to the depletion of the world’s oxygen supply.

“Using NASA satellites to detect fires and burn scars from space, researchers have found that an ongoing transition from nomadic cultures to settled lifestyles and intensifying agriculture has led to a steep drop in the use of fire for land clearing and an overall drop in natural and human-caused fires worldwide,” the NASA Earth Observatory reported.

(Screenshot, NASA)

“Globally, the total acreage burned by fires declined 24 percent between 1998 and 2015, according to a new paper published in Science,” said the government agency. “Scientists determined that the decline in burned area was greatest in savannas and grasslands, where fires are essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems and habitat conservation.”

Based on the NASA and Science information, Forbes contributor Michael Shellenberger reported, “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,” said Shellenberger, who is a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment” and Green Book Award Winner.

“That's because the amount of land being converted into ranches and farms has been going down, not up, and because more of it is being done with machines than with fire,” he said.

(Diptendu, Dutta, AFP, Getty Images)

As for the Amazon being the “lungs of the Earth” and providing “20% of the world’s oxygen,” this is a myth invented in 1966, according to George Mason University environmental philosopher, Marc Sagoff, who spoke with Shellenberger.

"In the 1960s, when 'lungs of the earth' was the big reason to save the rain forest," Sagoff said, "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."

(Getty Images)

Award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen has echoed that assessment. “Contrary to almost every popular account, Earth maintains an unusual surfeit of free oxygen—an incredibly reactive gas that does not want to be in the atmosphere—largely due not to the living, breathing trees, but to the existence, underground, of fossil fuels,” Peter Brannen wrote in The Atlantic.

“The Amazon produces about 6 percent of the oxygen currently being made by photosynthetic organisms alive on the planet today,” reported Brannen. “But surprisingly, this is not where most of our oxygen comes from.”

“In fact, from a broader Earth-system perspective, in which the biosphere not only creates but also consumes free oxygen, the Amazon’s contribution to our planet’s unusual abundance of the stuff is more or less zero,” he said.

This is not to say that the uptick in fires in the Amazon in 2019 are not important. NASA reported on the increase of the current fires that have destroyed areas of rainforest that host a great amount of biodiversity plus indigenous groups.

(Joao Laet, AFP, Getty Images)

“Scientists using NASA satellites to track fire activity have confirmed an increase in the number and intensity of fires in the Brazilian Amazon in 2019, making it the most active fire year in that region since 2010,” reported NASA Earth Observatory.

The reasons behind the fires are still being discussed. “While drought has played a large role in exacerbating fires in the past, the timing and location of fire detections early in the 2019 dry season are more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought,” reported NASA.

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