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Amazon Fires–Latest BBC Fake News

August 24, 2019

By Paul Homewood


I’ve only been gone a couple of days, and there’s already yet more hysterical (and fake) reports across the world’s media!

“Record wildfires in the Amazon” shrieks the press, and apparently it is Brazilian President Bolsonaro who is to blame, and not global warming (though there is not much difference. Surprised they did not blame it on Trump as well).


Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has seen a record number of fires this year, new space agency data suggests.

The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) said its satellite data showed an 84% increase on the same period in 2018.

It comes weeks after President Jair Bolsonaro sacked the head of the agency amid rows over its deforestation data.

The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming.

It is also home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.

Conservationists have blamed Mr Bolsonaro for the Amazon’s plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land, and scientists say the rainforest has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since he took office in January.

Brazil Amazon fires graph

Why are there fires in the Amazon?

Wildfires often occur in the dry season in Brazil but they are also deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching.

Inpe said it had detected more than 74,000 fires between January and August – the highest number since records began in 2013. It said it had observed more than 9,500 forest fires since Thursday, mostly in the Amazon region.

In comparison, there are slightly more than 40,000 in the same period of 2018, it said. However, the worst recent year was 2016, with more than 68,000 fires in that period.

The satellite images showed Brazil’s most northern state, Roraima, covered in dark smoke, while neighbouring Amazonas declared an emergency over the fires.

Mr Bolsonaro brushed off the latest data, saying it was the "season of the queimada", when farmers use fire to clear land. "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame," he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.


The first thing to notice is that these “records” only date back to 2013, so really are not worth the paper they are printed on. And, as the Science 2.0 website points out, the INPE data is not designed as a fire count system, but as a rapid alert system. Often fires are double counted, which is irrelevant to the system’s purpose.

As with all of these detection systems, methods and technology improve all the time. INPE will no doubt spot may fires missed in earlier years, just as satellites can now spot hurricanes previously missed.

However, there is a reliable fire count system, using NASA data, which shows that this year is actually below average for fires in Brazil.

Below is NASA’s latest summary:

As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years. (The Amazon spreads across Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and parts of other countries.) Though activity appears to be above average in the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, it has so far appeared below average in Mato Grosso and Pará, according to estimates from the Global Fire Emissions Database, a research project that compiles and analyzes NASA data.


And this is the key chart from the Global Fire Emissions Database:

ScreenHunter_4781 Aug. 24 18.20


You can hover over the graph to check daily data, but the full summary back to 2003 only appears at the end of each month. From that we can see that the early years between 2003 and 2007, along with 2010, experienced the worst fire totals.

Obviously 2019 (the green line) does not show up for Aug 31st yet, but it is in the middle of the pack, and a long way behind the record year of 2005.

Put simply, the BBC’s claims of a “record number of wildfires” is absurd, something which should have been obvious to any competent journalist with a bit of basic factchecking.

Of course, this article is purely intended as a “get Bolsonaro” ploy, no doubt coordinated by the green blob.


Is the Amazon rainforest burning up?

The dishonesty does not stop there, oh no!

The scary headlines hinge on two pieces of propaganda:

1) These wildfires are not normal events.

2) The rainforest is being destroyed.

In fact, as Science 2.0 explain, most of these fires are controlled grassland fires, deliberately set off to destroy shrub. This is a common and necessary process to manage farmland, which may have been originally created by deforestation decades ago.

Occasionally the fires get out of control and burn rainforest too, but this is incidental.

The ranchers use fire for forest clearing, "slash and burn agriculture" as it is called. That is because it is much easier to convert forest into grassland by burning it than to do it by felling the trees. Once it is cut, the way they manage the pastures is to reburn them every few years to clear out the brush and to get the grass to resprout.

So not all the fires you see are burning in virgin tropical rainforest. Many are controlled grassland fires, to get the grass to resprout. We do something similar in the UK where they do controlled burning of heather (muir burn) for grouse, sheep and deer.

It is illegal to start those fires in Brazil during the driest season because though it is the easiest time to burn the grassland the fires can get out of control too easily. But they are not always started with the intention to burn down the tropical forest. It’s often just a mistake. The same happens for heather fires in the UK some of our forest fires are due to out of control heather fires 


We can see what is really going on this photo from the Daily Mail:



It is obvious that this is not rainforest burning, but grassland.


And as the NASA report makes abundantly clear, this is the fire season in the Amazon, the dry time of year when farmers always use fire to clear their land.


In the Amazon rainforest, fire season has arrived. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured these images of several fires burning in the states of Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, and Mato Grosso on August 11 and August 13, 2019.

In the Amazon region, fires are rare for much of the year because wet weather prevents them from starting and spreading. However, in July and August, activity typically increases due to the arrival of the dry season. Many people use fire to maintain farmland and pastures or to clear land for other purposes. Typically, activity peaks in early September and mostly stops by November.



So the Amazon rainforest is not at risk, as the hyperventilating newspaper reports suggest, and what is going on this year is nothing out of the ordinary.



I mentioned at the start that Bolsonaro is getting the blame this time, and not climate change.

However, there is always one idiot that makes the exception. Step up, Peter Oborne, the Daily Mail hack, who totally lost the plot years ago. Today he had this to say:




Advice to Obore – Please check the facts in future, before you write about matters you quite clearly don’t understand.

  1. August 24, 2019 10:24 pm

    I point out a couple of articles at the BBC and the New York Times which were surprisingly factual and non-catastrophic. Even the Guardian had a few corrections to the catastrophic message yesterday. It could be that the BBC’s article I mention is a corrective to the one you link to.

    Perhaps journalists, uncertain whether to blame Bolsonaro or global heating, sent some junior researcher off to look up some facts for a change. Too late for President Macron, who has put “ecocide” and the danger of suffocating from lack of oxygen on the G7 agenda.

  2. August 25, 2019 12:13 am

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  3. August 25, 2019 12:26 am

    Can this post be sent to the BBC with a ‘please explain’ request?

  4. dearieme permalink
    August 25, 2019 1:01 am

    “The satellite images showed Brazil’s most northern state, Roraima, covered in dark smoke”: in which case no one can count the fires there, can they?

  5. August 25, 2019 3:12 am

    If you go to WUWT, one author shows that a lot of the fires are in Bolivia, but because it has a Socialist president, it escapes censure.

  6. August 25, 2019 3:51 am

    In the tropics, grass tend to grow rapidly and by the time of the dry season it could be well above a man’s head. The grass stems and leaves become very thick and dry. Not good for livestock it would seem. And it provides cover for all sorts of pests, predators and criminals.

    Nausori Highlands - Fiji

    So tropical graziers tend to progressively burn-off this grass if they can. A few months later – when the rains arrive, it is replaced by fresh green shoots – which the livestock much prefer apparently.

  7. August 25, 2019 7:33 am

    UK Sky news did not forget the Climate angle going on about the Forests being the lungs of the earth and all the CO2 being released by the fires accelerating the inevitable Climate Change and thus more Extreme weather . You have to go to Australia Sky news to get a different take.
    Can there be two different but concurrent realities. It seems there can or at least perceived realities. At the beginning of this week I check the weather in Bridgend as there was some outside work I wanted to do. The forecast was wet and cloudy for the beginning of the week Monday to Wednesday but getting drier after. So I put off the work. But the weather was the opposite of the forecast starting dry and then getting wetter.
    So the Climate must be a lot simpler than the weather if they can accurately predict it so far into the future with such high levels of confidence.
    Meanwhile People have been enjoying a hot bank holiday weekend. Traditionally it rains on Bank Holiday weekend .At least in Wales that is my memory of those days off from work that you would look forward to. If it was dry the roads would normally be blocked so you could not go anywhere anyway.

  8. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 25, 2019 9:18 am

    In the video here if you look it is obvious that most of what is burning is grassland and dead tree standing areas (areas that are have already been cleared and are being used for agriculture).

    The correspondent claims virgin canopy is going up – I see no/very little evidence of that.

    Also note how he ‘suggests’ the head of the space agency was sacked for revealing the scale of the fires, but the chronology is wrong, he was sacked, then the agency sought to embarrass the president.

  9. GeoffB permalink
    August 25, 2019 9:22 am

    It makes you wonder just how intelligent world leaders are. Surely they have advisors who can keep them straight on the FACTS. In a few paragraphs the lie that the Amazon rain forest is burning at its highest rate eva is exposed. The only rational explanation is that it is all down to a political agenda. Can it be all the Marxist theories, that I have never subscribed to, are actually true, and its all a plot to bring down capitalism.

    • dave permalink
      August 25, 2019 10:30 am

      The Marxist PRACTICAL theory was that Capitalism was about to collapse from internal contradictions. The Revolution would be mere guidance – de haut en bas – while this happened. The fact, that active campaigns against Capitalism with an undertone of violent intimidation seem necessary – after almost two Centuries! – to “bring it down,” means the theory was simplistic at best.

      Similarly, the fact that propaganda with an undertone of violent intimidation seems necessary – after several decades! – to keep people “in line” about CAGW, is enough in itself to prove that this is also a simplistic theory at best.

      With all such “plots in plain sight'” in the Western world one always senses – au fond – an alliance between a cunning elite and a resentful lower class* to despoil the fairly sensible but naive honest middling folk.

      * Ever renewed, as self-defined. Always with some new, manufactured, “chip on the shoulder.”

  10. Tim Spence permalink
    August 25, 2019 9:34 am

    Glad you have covered this because it’s been one of the worst examples of press bias. The media are intentionally conflating the Amazon, Amazonia and Brazil because it’s an ideal opportunity to
    1) push climate change
    2) bash Bolsonaro

    They’re publishling photos from 2008 or in the case of Macron, from a photographer who died in 2003. Fires don’t start in swamps or rainforests, it’s too humid to strike a match and even a lightning strike does little more than explode a tree and no fire results.

    I’ve actually been there a few times on the Amazon, and after arriving over the Andes and getting on the river I enquired what the altitude was, 350m above sea level and 5,000 kilometres to the river mouth. It’s then you realise that the area is a gently sloping, gigantic sponge that soaks up and oozes the rainfall back into the rivers. The caudal discharge is 100 times greater than the Nile.

    Trying to convert the outer perimiter of this land into farmland is a sisyphus type of task, the jungle just reconsumes the grassland and hence the need to burn back every year or two.

  11. dave permalink
    August 25, 2019 9:54 am

    Fear not! The Greenland Ice Cap is melting, and a rising flood will extinguish the fires, although we will have to wait at least a year for relief, as this summer’s melt is finished:

    The “extra loss” this year was 200 cubic kilometers. Let us calculate (as Leibniz would have said):

    200 cubic km is enough to pile up a column of water, on a base of one sq km, to a height of 200 km or 200 million millimeters. As the area of the oceans is 360 million sq km, the actual column (smear?) of “extra” sea water is about half a millimeter high (one fiftieth of an inch for we oldies). As I gaze out at the Channel today… I see a huge monster rising from the deep! Oh well , perhaps not.

    In any case, I am comforted by the remembrance that in the two previous years there was “extra gain.” Whew! Whew! Whew!

    Watching a climate catastrophe develop is far more tedious than watching paint dry.


  12. A C Osborn permalink
    August 25, 2019 10:51 am

    Paul, to be fair as has been pointed out at WUWT this period is a near record for Brazil and in particular the Amazonas area, but as you say not for the Amazon

  13. Derrick J Byford permalink
    August 25, 2019 10:56 am

    The Amazon is usually referred to as the “lungs of the planet”. I wonder how many people (especially journalists and politicians) realise there is greater forest cover in Canada than Brazil, and far more than both in Russia?

    • dennisambler permalink
      August 25, 2019 1:18 pm

      Lungs of the planet is the meme being pushed by Macron. Just about every media report speaks of “20% of the Earth’s Oxygen”. It is another myth according to this 2014 paper from Yale, not known for its climate scepticism:

      “While trees provide carbon storage, forestry is not a permanent solution because trees and soil also “breathe” — that is, burn oxygen and release carbon dioxide back into the air. Eventually, all of the carbon finds its way back into the atmosphere when trees die or burn.

      Moreover, it is a myth that photosynthesis controls the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Even if all photosynthesis on the planet were shut down, the atmosphere’s oxygen content would change by less than 1 percent.

      The Amazon rain forest is often perceived as the lungs of the planet. In fact, almost all the oxygen the Amazon produces during the day remains there and is reabsorbed by the forest at night. In other words, the Amazon rain forest is a closed system that uses all its own oxygen and carbon dioxide.

      Planting trees and avoiding deforestation do offer unambiguous benefits to biodiversity and many forms of life. But relying on forestry to slow or reverse global warming is another matter entirely.”

      • Colin permalink
        August 25, 2019 11:10 pm

        Well said, in fact even quite educated people believe that forests provide oxygen and without them we would soon suffocate. All plants, not just trees photosynthesise oxygen, and strictly speaking, yes we would run out of oxygen if every plant died. Of course if there was no vegetation air breathing animals would die before any measurable impact was made on atmospheric oxygen.

    • dave permalink
      August 26, 2019 9:28 am

      The purpose of my lungs is to take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide. Is this what the Amazon forest does? It is news to me!

      Propagandists can say anything they want, because the main, cultivated talent of most people, after a hundred years of compulsory, state-run, secondary education, is to swallow whatever is on the spoon.

      The distinction between stocks and flows is certainly never on that spoon.

  14. A C Osborn permalink
    August 25, 2019 11:02 am

    There is a very interesting post over at the GWPF by Ronald Bailey.
    It shows that deforestation under Bolsonaro is currently running at a quarter of what it was in 1995 and the early 2000s and the reason is that as the people have become better off and don’t they need to resort to deforestation.
    Also another report he quoted is the one that shows that Globally the Tree Canopy has expanded by 865,000 square miles

  15. Wellers permalink
    August 25, 2019 11:13 am

    This fake news story from the BBC and elsewhere is nicely covered by Tony Heller in his new video. He also covers the fake news media stories about 440 billion tons of Greenland ice sheet melting, which claim this is unprecedented when in fact it’s quite normal (see dave’s comments above).
    Well worth watching, and don’t forget to 👍.

    • August 25, 2019 1:47 pm

      Heller debunks BBC/MSM hysterical headlines
      .. by pointing out the BBC article has a paragraph towards the end that quotes NASA asserting that this years fires are lower than normal..

  16. August 25, 2019 11:14 am

    OTT but “Hottest August Bank Holiday Evah in Wales” measured here . . .,-4.020613,3a,60y,35.34h,88.57t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sTBgcWl1PcgQiXtxmey8Fzg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      August 25, 2019 11:56 am

      Have you noticed how record bank holiday temperatures have now expanded to record bank holiday weekend temperatures! Triple the chances – they’re gonna get a record 1 way or another!

      As I said before, it’s a meaningless record on a random moving date over a short history, it isn’t going to get anywhere near the August temperature record, not that that would show anything except random weather anyway.

  17. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 25, 2019 12:15 pm

    Why no outcry and attempt to punish Bolivia and SOCIALIST president Evo Morales who HASN’T THREATENED TO PULL OUT OF THE PARIS AGREEMENT?

    “Up to 800,000 hectares of the unique Chiquitano forest were burned to the ground in Bolivia between August 18 and August 23. That’s more forest than is usually destroyed across the country in two years.”

    On the face of it this does sound like real new destruction.

    “Bolivian President Evo Morales has justified people starting fires, saying: ‘If small families don’t set fires, what are they going to live on?'”

    “His environmental rhetoric has been strong but his policies have been contradictory. Morales has approved widespread deforestation, as well as roads and gas exploration in national parks.”

    Like so many, Bolivia’s president says the right thing on the world stage, happy with the anti-capitalist socialist UN global governance agenda and a free ride, so no condemnation from activists/world politicians, what he really does on the ground doesn’t matter – because none of this outrage is really about the climate/environment.

  18. August 25, 2019 12:24 pm

    The Brazilian rain-forests are an example of what botanists call the “rain-green deciduous forest formation.” They are in tropical areas, but are also subject to a dry season which has somewhat the effect of our fall/winter seasons. During the rainy seasons, as some have pointed out, it is difficult for a falling leaf to reach the ground with all of the fungi, etc. which will eat it up. So when you have the dry season leaf fall, there is not much other litter built up and when the rains come, these will also be consumed.

    Those who think that this is similar to the wildfires in Yellowstone in the late 1980’s have another think coming. These hand-wringers should look at a map of the Amazonia rain forest to see the sheer stunning size of it. In the case of the Amazon, you simply cannot burn significant portions of it. In the case of Yellowstone, it is a fire-maintained formation as the predominant lodge pole pine requires fires with a certain amount of heat to melt the resins which glue the cones shut and allow the seeds to be released.

  19. dearieme permalink
    August 25, 2019 1:04 pm

    “in the UK some of our forest fires are due to out of control heather fires”: correct me if I’m wrong but in Britain we don’t get “forest fires”, if by forest you mean broadleaf woodland.

    We do get fires on conifer plantations of course, and we do get Forest fires if you use Forest in the classical sense to include heathland and moorland where the hunting of deer used to be controlled by the King/Earl/Bishop/Abbot.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 26, 2019 8:35 pm

      Correct. On a course on woodlands where the risks of ownership was covered, Professor Julian Evans said that there was little risk of fires due to the lack of fuel in our woodlands. Fly tipping – a growth industry due to the EU Landfill Directive and UK councils – was a much bigger risk if you had easy road access.

  20. dennisambler permalink
    August 25, 2019 1:07 pm

    The idea of the rainforests as primal, virginal areas critical to the survival of the planet is a false one.

    Professor Philip Stott in 2003: “At the end of the last ice age, only some 12-18000 years ago, the tropics were covered by seasonal savannah grasslands, cooler and much drier than now. There were no rain forests in the Malay Peninsula and much of Amazonia, and, despite the increasing human development of forested space, there are still more rain forests persisting than existed then.

    The Guardian should check its archives:

    “Stone age etchings found in Amazon basin as river levels fall”: 10 November 2010 Guardian

    “Archaeologists who have studied the photographs believe the art – which features images of faces and snakes – is another indication that thousands of years ago the Amazon was already home to large civilisations.

    “Eduardo Neves, president of the Brazilian Society of Archaeology and a leading Amazon scholar, said the etchings appeared to have been made between 3,000 and 7,000 years ago when water levels in the region were lower. The etchings were “further, undeniable evidence” that the region had been occupied by a significant number of ancient settlements and people.”

    Not the only one:
    “Brazil: Ancient Amazon Actually Highly Urbanized” August 31st 2008

    “The report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, describes clusters of towns and smaller villages that were connected by complex road networks and were arranged around large central plazas. Researches also discovered signs of farming, wetland management and fish farms in the ancient settlements that are now almost completely covered by rainforest.”

  21. dennisambler permalink
    August 25, 2019 1:25 pm

    “The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming.”

    Not according to this paper from 2017:

    “The Amazon River outgasses nearly an equivalent amount of CO2 as the rainforest sequesters on an annual basis due to microbial decomposition of terrigenous and aquatic organic matter.

    The Amazon River is a major source of CO2 to the atmosphere, but understanding the interplay between photosynthesis and respiration is critical for understanding the fundamental mechanisms driving these fluxes and the overall productivity of the ecosystem.”

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      August 25, 2019 1:31 pm

      It’s almost like there is a carbon cycle, and looking at bits in isolation as the alarmists frequently do, is all rather silly. A bit like only counting your expenditure, ignoring your income, and convincing yourself you’ll be bankrupt by next week.

  22. August 25, 2019 1:52 pm

    As ever ask : “Is this news, or is it PR ?”
    It is clearly being used to distract
    and say “look over there at the bad guy President Bolsonaro”
    The giveaway is that they don’t mention the Bolivia or Siberia fires
    What is the context of the Siberia fires.. aren’t they bigger ?

    • Wellers permalink
      August 25, 2019 6:59 pm

      This story appears to be a hit piece on President Bolsanaro in revenge him sacking the head of the Brazilian Institute for Space Research. It was this agency that has tried to compromise him with cherry picked data, slavishly swallowed by the fake news media and Macron.

  23. August 25, 2019 1:54 pm

    Tweet from a Marxist loony who the MSM air at the drop of a hat

  24. August 25, 2019 2:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  25. Wellers permalink
    August 26, 2019 11:26 pm

    How hypocritical of President Macrot when you consider that the French also carry out “écobuage” (controlled burning) of their heathlands, etc. Here in the New Forest the Forestry Commission carries out controlled burns of areas overgrown by gorse. This is an essential part of managing the local environment as the New Forest Ponies must feed on young gorse shoots to survive the winters:

    Having been unable to ingratiate himself with the greens at home with the failure of his eco-taxes, Président Macrot struts on the world stage lecturing Brazil on how to manage their rain forests. Perhaps the Brazilians should offer to send over their army to help the French manage their heathlands and wildfires?

  26. Janet Rocha permalink
    August 28, 2019 12:12 am

    One of the biggest promoters of the hysteria has been Macron. He has been using fake photos to generate an international climate of hysteria which coincides with the G7 meeting for two reasons. The first is to break the deal negotiated between the EEC and the Mercosul which would have resulted in easier access of South American agricultural products to the EEC and this would negatively affect French farmers.
    Secondly, ever since Mitterand the French have campaigned to remove the control of the Amazon from Brazil to the United Nations.

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