August 30, 2019

More Arguing with Idiots - Amazon Fires Issue

Timothy Birdnow

More arguing over the Amazon fires:

See part I here.

Dylan Weil

Timothy Birdnow I have a science-intensi ve background as well, I understand perfectly well that the primary ecological significance of the Amazon is to act as a natural carbon sink, and consequently a global regulator of GHG emissions, rather than producing oxygen (the Amazon does produce an enormous amount of oxygen, but it re-absorbs most of it). You are correct that most of the worlds oxygen comes from our oceans, specifically from marine phytoplankton, Cyanobacteria, and other photosynthetic microbes.

I’m not being "dishonest,” I understand when it’s appropriate to apply certain types of trends or data to a given argument. Simply focusing on long-term trends is (ironically) incredibly myopic here. We are all perfectly aware that deforestation has been on the decline overall, especially since the turn of the century when Brazil enacted comprehensive environmental reform that dramatically scaled back destructive activities within the Amazon. The issue right now is with troubling short-term trends that indicate a breakdown of more optimistic long-term trends. This NPR article drives home this point: Brazil’s own National Institute for Space Research indicates that the amount if land cleared due to deforestation activities within the last month are about 300% greater than in June 2018, and overall forested land within the Amazon has decreased by 20-30% compared to the last year. Despite the fact a long-term trend plot included in this article shows that deforestation has not come close to surpassing deforestation levels pre-2000s, these numbers are STILL extremely concerning because of the trajectory they indicate - https:// www.npr.org/ 2019/08/21/ 753140642/ tens-of-thousand s-of-fires-rava ge-brazilian-am azon-where-defo restation-has-s pike





As your annual emissions estimates visualization, that is global emissions from three different environments sources, not from the Amazon specifically, and doesn’t even include official counts from 2016 onwards. I think it’s also interesting to note that in most years, forest contributes the greatest proportion of emissions.

The NASA article I shared agrees with my line of reasoning - the fact that Amazonian fires are the most intense this year than since 2010 is concerning. The numbers may not have surpassed the 15 year average, but narrower windows of time indicate we are on a trajectory to do just that.

This Bloomberg article does an excellent job of illustrating recent deforestation trends, how they drive fires, and the economic drivers behind these activities: https:// www.bloomberg.co m/graphics/ 2019-why-amazon- rainforest-is-o n-fire/

Sorry, but it is simply not possible to conclude that land developers are not playing a significant role in these fires, and that Bolsonaro’s anti-environmen
talist stance, policies, and rhetoric aren’t playing a role as well. Also keep in mind that the dry season was actually relatively mild this year, yet fire activity has still far surpassed what was expected, further supporting human activity as the primary driver here. On top if that, it’s also critical to note that overall naturally started fires are much more rare in rainforests than other types of biomes.

Dylan Weil

Timothy Birdnow

When analyzing these types of situations, and defaulting to non-concern because a given situation hasn’t surpassed long-term metric, what you’re essentially arguing is that we shouldn’t be concerned about how we manage our environment UNTIL things get so bad that these trends are broken. This is incredibly harmful, short-sighted thinking, and this isn’t how science is supposed to be used to drive policy decisions. If we accumulate evidence that particular human activities are starting to become harmful, THAT is when we take action. We don’t wait until things get so bad that a long-term trend has actually reversed or otherwise become broken.

The reason why I haven’t addressed wildfires in other South American countries isn’t because "they don’t fit my theory”, it’s because they have nothing to do with this argument and I know how to stay on point. What’s happening in the Brazil-owned regions of the Amazon is a result of factors that are specific to Brazil and their government. However, at least when it comes to Bolivia, their struggles with wildfires also seem to be due to deforestation activities due to a relaxing of their own specific policies: https:// www.theguardian. com/world/2019/ aug/26/ bolivia-wildfire s-brazil-amazon

Timothy Birdnow

Dylan Weil,. you are moving the goalposts here.. Should we be concerned about an increase in fires? Maybe, maybe not, but THAT is not what we were arguing about; you have gone off point, exactly what you accuse ME of doing with my discussion about fires in other South American countries (which IS pertinent as it shows it has little to do with policies implemented by Bolsinaro.)

And I strongly disagree with your presumption that the short term trends are everything in this; the fact is, we are having one year with a little more fire than the last few. I never said deforestation was not occurring, but that it is being grossly overplayed by the fake news environmentalist lobby, largely because they hate Bolsinaro almost as much as they hate Donald Trump. Bolsinaro fired the head of the space agency, btw, and he did it precisely because he felt that agency was lying to the public for political purposes.

Let me ask, do you get a colonoscopy the day after you suffer constipation? No, you wait until you are sure there is an actual problem. You are asking a lot of people to give up their livellihood, to remain poor, and yet you aren't willing to wait to be certain that his IS a problem. And you seem strangely eager to believe what science writers (and many of them are just guys who hope to write for the Washington Post some day as political reporters) tell you to believe.

I reiterate my point; a large part of this is burning deadwood that has accumulated, and that because many of the fields that had previously been cleared had been allowed to go fallow for a number of years. This is a natural spike, and will drop off. You are using ONE YEAR as your sample anomalie. It is poor science.You and others like you are driving an hysterical reaction to this when we don't have the facts. Oh, and you don't drive policy on hysteria. Hard cases make bad law. So much of the environmentalist reaction is precisely that.

Timothy Birdnow

Dylan Weil. more on my point on deadwood in the Amazon, drought conditions lead to an increase in such deadwood. According to this article: https:// phys.org/news/ 2016-07-drought- stalls-tree-gro wth-amazon.html

"By using long-term measurements from the RAINFOR network spanning nearly a hundred locations across the Amazon Basin, the team was able to examine the responses of trees. In both the first drought and the second the Amazon temporarily lost biomass. But while both droughts killed many trees, the 2010 drought also had the effect of slowing the growth rates of the survivors, suggesting that many trees were adversely affected but not to the point of death."

End excerpt.

This was in 2010, but it is quite suggestive, no? Apparently the effects of drought last for years. See https:// www.water.ox.ac. uk/ drought-amazon-p ersist-years-la ter/ This article states:

"The team found that the impact of the 2005 drought was on a much larger scale than scientists had previously predicted. About 30 percent (1.7 million square kilometres) of the Amazon basin’s total current forest area was affected in some way, with more than five percent of the forest experiencing severe drought conditions."

end

See also https:// climate.nasa.gov /news/2780/ nasa-finds-amazo n-drought-leave s-long-legacy-o f-damage/There have been two major droughts in the Amazon during the last decade. And it was droughty in January in much of the Amazon. Oh, and here https:// en.mercopress.co m/2019/08/28/ insufficient-rai nfall-forecaste d-as-brazil-s-a mazon-dry-seaso n-end-approache sis a mainstream article that quotes Maria Silva Dias, a professor of atmospheric sciences at University of Sao Paulo. She says:

"The dry season, which varies among parts of the Amazon but runs several months up to September, has been particularly dry this year, Dias said. Mato Grosso has been parched by a cold front that hit earlier in the year, she said."

End

While there have not been drought conditions like 2010, it is clear precipitation has indeed been low, especially in some areas. contradicts the claim made that it has been a normal year. I've seen that claim too, but it's not true and it also does not give the whole picture.

BTW, I've been hunting for a precipitation table for the last ten years in the Amazon with no luck. Of course, it doesn't help that I have an ancient computer.Still, areas outside of the Amazon in Brazil experienced a major drought between 2014 and 2017. It seems over half of the country was affected, including almost all of the Northeast.

My point? We had two terrible droughts in the last decade, a terrible drought across all of Brazil that ended two years ago, and droughty conditions this year. So, what does that do to the forest? if drought really does hurt the forest in the way the physorg article stats, then you had a bunch of tinder waiting to burn. And the Guardian confirms this drought effected the Amazon basin. https:// www.dailymail.co .uk/news/ article-3288144/ The-Amazon-drain ed-forest-Incre dible-pictures- devastating-eff ect-drought-rav ishing-Brazil-a rea-s-worst-dry -spell-100-year s.html

Oh, and while we're at it, the Guardian's claim that Bolivia is burning because of a relaxation of policy is a nonsequiter. In fact, it is purely speculation on the part of the writers of that article. ism The fact is, the claim this is some sort of capitalism gone wild is nothing but conjecture. There is every reason to believe these fires are part of a natural cycle as much as anything. And again, they aren't unusual at all, except for the last ten years. Generally with forest fires, the longer they go without burning the worse they will be.

One more thing; here's research that showed that deforestation in Africa was not as bad as thought, because we were using bad modeling techniques. Ihttps://
phys.org/news/ 2018-04-deforest ation-tropical- africa-bad-prev iously.html If this is true, what does that say about deforestation in the Amazon? It was not a model peculiar to Africa that was wrong, according to the researchers.

Dylan Weil

Dylan Weil

Timothy Birdnow What? When did I move the goalposts? This ENTIRE conversation is literally about recent increases in fire activity and deforestation! What in the world did you think we were talking about?

Lol your colonoscopy analogy is weak at best. This is how environmental science, and related policy, works Tim - it’s supposed to be predictive and proactive, not reactive. If we see lots of people engaging in activities we already know to be environmentally destructive, we don’t wait for those activities to continue until we see major, major problems emerge, we work to put a stop to it from the get-go. Actually, let’s go back to that colonoscopy analogy. Let’s say you go in for a colonoscopy for a preventative check-up and the doctor finds a polyp. It’s not cancerous, it might not even become cancerous, but what does the doctor do? They just remove the polyp anyways. Because we know based on extensive experience and research that polyps could be become cancerous and cause enormous, potentially fatal damage to the body, we remove it before that ever happens. I know I know, it’s far from a perfect analogy, but then again, so is yours.

Again, you’re really not understanding how rainforests work here. Large fires usually do NOT start naturally in rainforests. It doesn’t matter how much deadwood has accumulated. The environment is FAR too humid, and absolutely nothing I’ve read even remotely suggests deadwood playing any role. You might get little brush fires here and there, particularly during dry seasons (again the dry season this year was fairly mild), but the most they’ll do is burn forest litter. Even if these low-levels manage to spread relatively far they’ll almost never affect the canopy. If we spot fires large enough to be tracked by satellite, as in fires that burn upward passed the canopy, it is most likely due to human activity. And any increase in the frequency of large fires in rainforest is also most likely due to a corresponding increase in human activity. This is a bit of an older article but it provides a fairly decent explanation: https:// rainforests.mong abay.com/ 0809.htm

Fires will obviously be much more likely in a drought, but as I’ve said, this was a relatively moist year. Also, human activity makes the risk of large fires during extreme drought even more likely. This is detailed in the article I shared as well. And yet fire intensity has increased dramatically, and the only real explanation for this is increased deforestation.

This is why the increases in fires and forest loss we’ve been seeing recently are extremely concerning, because it can ONLY be people causing it. This isn’t a "natural spike” because there’s basically no such thing when it comes to fires this intense. Even during extreme droughts, many large fires are usually started due to human activity. In the past when levels of Amazon fires and deforestation were much higher, it was because there was that much more human activity, and in the early 2000s when Brazil enacted their environmental reforms and these trends dropped off, it was because human activity was dramatically reduced.

Also, I’m not sure what secondary science articles you’ve been reading, but from what I’ve been reading the authors will usually cite or directly quote experts in the field, or primary scientific literature.

Ugh dude, Bolsonaro fired the head of Brazil’s space agency because their research contradicts his rhetoric. This is what authoritarian leaders do. Trump has done the EXACT same thing within our own federal research organizations. Of course he "claimed” Brazilian’s space agency was making up data, but that doesn’t change the fact that Brazil’s satellite data agrees with ours almost perfectly. The science stands on its own. The reason you presume environmentalis t movements and research groups (lol @ "environmental lobbyists”) rely on "poor science” is because you don’t understand how the science is supposed to be analyzed and leveraged in this type of policy making. The increase in deforestation and large (manmade) fires we’ve seen this year is significant, extremely concerning, and worthy of protest and action. It doesn’t matter if long-term trends are more optimistic, there shouldn’t be ANY spike in these activities within a given year, because spikes in large Amazon fires is BECAUSE of human activity. And why is human activity increasing? Because the Bolsonaro administration allows it and is actively encouraging it.
Edited · Like · React · More · 34 minutes ago

Dylan Weil

As for modeling deforestation, it seems as the problem your article pointed out was in using outputs from climate models to estimate deforestation extent, which was the technique originally used in assessing African rainforests. I’ve had trouble finding technical details as to how exactly NASA or the Brazilian space agency estimates deforestation with satellite imagery.


Dylan Weil, the colonoscopy example is spot on; you don't get one just because you have a poor bowel movement (and it's REALLY spot on with you environmentalis
t types, but I digress.) Is it a perfect analogy? No. Did I EVER say we shouldn't keep an eye on things? No. But you people are trying to panic the public with a normal fire season, which is a lie. You have to know that. In short, you are supporting a lie. Is that science?

You say:

"The environment is FAR too humid, and absolutely nothing I’ve read even remotely suggests deadwood playing any role. You might get little brush fires here and there, particularly during dry seasons (again the dry season this year was fairly mild), but the most they’ll do is burn forest litter. Even if these low-levels manage to spread relatively far they’ll almost never affect the canopy. If we spot fires large enough to be tracked by satellite, as in fires that burn upward passed the canopy, it is most likely due to human activity"

end.

How many contradictions can you pack into one sentence? If it is too humid for forest fires it's too humid for wildfires in general. Does that mean these fires are ALL slash and burn? That contradicts everything everybody has been saying. And you miss one of the points I've been trying to get through to you; a lot of that dead wood will be burned by farmers who want it out of the fields. Yes, people are involved. But so what? And every media outlet is reporting these as WILDFIRES, not controlled burns. Here CNN says as much.https:// www.cnn.com/ americas/ live-news/ amazon-wildfire- august-2019/ index.html

You claim it was a mild drought year but provide no evidence. I provided mine; a professor of atm ospheric sciences at Sao Paolo University. If you would kindly show your work..

Uh, Dude, a tyrant wouldn't just fire a guy who works for him and is trying to undercut his policies, he would uh, like, you know, KILL HIM. If Bolsonaro were such a tyrant nobody would even try to buck him. In point of fact, this guy heading up the Space Agency was an employee of the President. Maybe you think a guy should be allowed to spread propaganda to undermine his boss, but most reasonable people do not agree..

And once again, this is a normal fire season and you people are just being dishonest about it. .



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