This was potentially a good article by the BBC except that sadly it used an absurd click bait title and had several serious factual errors
I recommend the Mongabay articles on the same topic as far better: The past, present and future of the Congo peatlands: 10 takeaways from our series and in more detail, their series: The ‘idea’: Uncovering the peatlands of the Congo Basin, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.
The BBC article is scaring some of the vulnerable people I help with my fact checking,, because of the clickbait and hyperbole, so here is a debunk to help anyone else who got scared by it in the same way.
Oxygen in the atmosphere built up over millions of years. Nothing we do can make a noticeable difference
Even burning all this peat (impossible) would remove a negligible 0.014% from 20.95%
The BBC article is here . Congo peat: The 'lungs of humanity' which are under threat
I do the titles of sections like mini-abstracts - you can get a good first impression by reading the titles then drill into any section of interest.
This another article I'm writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of feeling suicidal about it, by such stories.
Do share this with your friends if you find it useful, as they may be panicking too.
CALCULATION OF THE 14 PPM FIGURE (TECHY DETAILS)
The peat bog contains over 30 billion metric tons of carbon The ‘idea’: Uncovering the peatlands of the Congo Basin
Atomic weights of Carbon: 12, O2: 32, CO2: 44
If it was all returned to the atmosphere as CO2 it would take up 80 billion tons of oxygen (30 billion * 32/12) and form 110 billion tons of CO2 (30 billion * 44/12)
Densities at sea level and 0 C: Air 1.293, CO2 1.977, Oxygen 1.429 Gases - Densities
Mass of the atmosphere of 5.1480×10^15 metric tons
So it would reduce the oxygen by 10^6*(80 billion/1.429)/(5.1480×10^15/1.293) = 14 ppm
It would add 10^6*(110 billion/1.977)/(5.1480×10^15/1.293) = 14 ppm of CO2.
Figure of 29,500 ppm of oxygen in the atmosphere from : Atmospheric Composition
DRC AND REPUBLIC OF CONGO TOGETHER VOWED TO PROTECT THE CONGO PEATLANDS IN 2018 SEEN BY THE UN AS A “HUGE WIN FOR THE PLANET”
The BBC article doesn’t make it very clear that the DRC and the Republic of the Congo vowed to protect their peatlands in 2018. This is how the UN reported it in 2018:
QUOTE As a biodiversity treasure trove and an opportunity for climate action, peatlands need our urgent protection and restoration—which makes a 2018 commitment to protect a massive peatland in Central Africa a huge win for the planet, and the people and animals living there.
Brought together by UN Environment and other Global Peatlands Initiative partners, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo and Indonesia signed the Brazzaville Declaration in March 2018 to protect this complex. The Global Peatlands Initiative, led by UN Environment, helps peatland countries save or restore these vital wetlands, which cover about 3 per cent of global land area.
All the BBC say is
But despite a series of international agreements about the need to protect the peatlands of the Congo Basin, there is growing frustration in the region, with ministers like Ms Soudan-Nonault accusing the West of hypocrisy.
That’s all they say on the topic.
Calling it an “international agreements” is a bit strange when the agreement is between the DRC and the Republic of the Congo. Strictly speaking it’s international but not quite what the reader would think. They themselves vowed to protect it.
GERMANY’S DONATION OF 15 MILLION EUROS OVER 6 YEARS TO HELP PRESERVE THE PEAT AND THE FORESTS
What they need is internatinal help and for instance Germany earlier this year in January provided 15 million euros to help protect the peat and the forests.
The first to start on 1 January is a regional project with the aim of safeguarding important carbon sinks, water reservoirs and biodiversity hotspots in the peatlands of the Congo Basin. The peatlands of the Cuvette Centrale, which were first mapped in 2017 and are located in the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are the largest interconnected tropical peatland complex of the world, covering an estimated 145,000 km2 (and storing approximately 30 gigatonnes of carbon).
They are home to an impressive wealth of biodiversity. The highest density of Western lowland gorillas can be found here along with other species such as bonobos, chimpanzees, forest elephants and bird species.
There are a variety of protected areas here, among them several Ramsar sites like the Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe site (the second largest wetland in the world at 6.7 million hectares), which is located in the transboundary area around Lake Télé and Lake Tumba. The site includes the largest continental freshwater body in Africa, making it one of the most important wetlands in Africa and one of the most important freshwater bodies in the world.
To preserve this habitat, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working together with partners to develop and pilot action plans for endangered species over a six-year period. Beyond that, a management plan to preserve the water resources is envisaged that will include a monitoring system for the peatlands. The IKI has made 15 million euros available for these measures alone.
CONGO PEAT - BIG FIVE YEAR SCIENCE PROJECT TO LEARN WHAT IS NEEDED TO PROTECT THE PEATLANDS
CongoPeat is a 5-year project led by Professor Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds, funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Counci
Yet, while mostly intact and increasingly protected on paper, the peatlands are in reality threatened by road building, logging, drainage for industrial palm oil plantations, and oil exploration. Additionally, rising temperatures could tip the balance of the peatland from absorbing carbon from the atmosphere to releasing it.
In response, the CongoPeat programme aims to gain a comprehensive understanding of this carbon-rich ecosystem by answering key questions about its past, present and future. It brings together leading experts from six UK universities and five Congolese organisations to study this newly discovered ecosystem, alongside science-policy communication specialists to explain our results.
We aim to provide the very best scientific information to allow policy-makers and civil society to make wise decisions about this globally significant region of Earth.
TREES TAKE IN CARBON WHEN THEY GROW, AND WHEN THEY DIE AND DECAY RETURN ALL THE CARBON THEY TOOK IN WHILE GROWING
Oh - trees take in carbon when they grow, but then when they die and decay they return all the carbon that they took in while growing. This is what leads to the ripple effect in the Keeling curve.
Autumn leaves return CO2
Spring vegetation takes in CO2
Lag of a few weeks for CO2 changes at high latitudes to reach Hawaii.
The curve is here The Keeling Curve
explanation here Why Does Atmospheric CO2 Peak in May?
WE NEVER RUN OUT OF OXYGEN ON ANY SCENARIO - EVEN IF ALL PHOTOSYNTHESIS MAGICALLY STOPPED IT WOULD NOT MAKE ANY NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE FOR CENTURIES - EVEN WITH ANIMALS BREATHING OXYGEN ALL THE WAY THROUGH -IMPOSSIBLE SCENARIO
1. This debunks the title. If you find this article in Google then you will think it is an article about risks of running out of oxygen. I didn't search for lungs, just for Congo peat - and the BBC article is the first reesult telling me FALSELY that the "lungs of humanity" are under threat. Think about what this seems like to someone prone to panicking abouot the environment! They are likely to have an immediate panic attack or surge of anxiety.
For most people who find this in Google, it will confirm the common FALSE idea that forests are essential for breathing and we risk not being able to breathe in the future.
This is in the title and reinforced in the text snippet
This is totally false.
We don't run out of oxygen on any scenario. Even if we could impossibly stop all photosynthesis around the world for a thousand years with animals continuing to breathe as normal we would still have plenty of oxygen. A rough calculation suggests animals on Earth could continue as we are for over 2,000 years of oxygen breathing before sea level oxygen pressure gets down to the 60% levels of the Tibetan plateau. That's an impossible scenario, just to give an idea.
Nobody is quite sure where this myth came from originally, it refers to a MISTAKEN tweet by Emannual Macron, president of France but nobody knows where he got it from.
FALSE viral tweet by president Macron that hit the headlines and was immediately debunked by scientists - but few of the general public know it is completely FALSE.
BBC never fact checked it - nor did most other mainstream media.
This is an example fact check published soon after the tweet (11 days later) - but it’s not mainstream media:Amazon Doesn’t Produce 20% of Earth’s Oxygen/
My fact check is here
Some authors speculate that his tweet might be a result of a misunderstanding of the global photosynthetic cycle and knowing that the Amazon contributes 16% of photosynthesis - but that is a misunderstanding because the Amazon doesn't contribute any noticeable amount of oxygen because decaying trees take up all the oxygen that was produced by the growing trees - the oxygen can only build up through buring undecayed wood which does happen but slowly over millions of years.
Scientists immediately debunked Macron's comments, but the mainstream media don't seem to have noticed their debunks and run this story over and over - it's become an accepted false factoid that the BBC often repeats.
Go into details here.
BTW the label "the lungs of the world" is a bit of a weird one too. Lungs remove oxygen not add it. Rather bizarre but widely used catch phrase that is both false and meaningless if you take it literally.
PALM WINE CAN BE EXTRACTED SUSTAINABLY - AND SCIENTISTS ARE STUDYING THE LOCAL POPULATION TO SEE HOW THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MANAGE THE PEATLAND SUSTAINABLY FOR CENTURIES
2. With the palm wine, some methods are sustainable, others are unsustainable. The method described here of tapping the bark may be sustainable. You can also tap stems and you can tap the flowers. If you tap the terminal bud of the tree and if you continue to tap it unti it is exhausted it will eventually die. Even methods that kill the trees are sustainable if there are enough new trees grow to replace the ones that die.
I'm not sure, but the method descirbed here of tapping the trunk sounds like it wouldn't kill the tree. And if he does this for a living every day - surely he would notice if it does kill trees - and if it does - then the solution is to make sure to plant new ones.
It certainly can be sustainable. Maybe the professor is misquoted here or it's taken out of context.
I was skeptical about this statement because palm wine production is a traditional forest product in Africa and has been going on since long before Europeans visited the continent - it can't be unsustainable if done properly. It could be unsustainable if done destructively or the palm trees are over-exploited.
It sounds like he is tapping wild palms.
In the most high intensity palm milk extraction, palm oil tappers climb right up to the top of the tree, can be up to 30 meters and tap the terminal bud - this means the very top bud which is where a palm tree grows vertically - palm trees unlike most trees only grow taller from a single terminal bud and if it is destroyed they can't grow any taller. But they don't die at that point. This only kills the tree if you keep taking the maximum you can - if you stop and give it a few years to recover then you can start tapping it again even with the terminal bud method - it will never grow any taller but it will continue to produce the juice for palm wine for many years.
So, sustainable palm wine production needs either.
- planting young palm trees - which take 35 years to reach maturity OR
- non destructive sustainable tapping where they take somewhat less from the palm tree.
There are other ways of tapping it from the inflorescence - this means the flowers - which don't stop it from growing.
See this study for Coite d'Ivore.
QUOTE B. aethiopum could be preserved by intentional planting and/or by introducing non-destructive extraction methods. Technically, planting works very well, as is shown by the traditional practice of letting fruits germinate for consumption of the germs. However, it takes about 35 years for B. aethiopum to grow to a size that can be exploited for palm wine (Monnier, 1977), and this reduces the population’s motivation to engage in planting.
Non-destructive extraction methods are practised in Burkina Faso and Senegal, where the extraction of the sap is stopped before the trees are too exhausted and they are left for two years to regenerate (Maydell and G ̈otz, 1985; Niang, 1976). In Asia and especially in south-east Asia, the sap of Borassus flabellifer is extracted from the inflorescens and not from the terminal bud (Theivendirarajah and Chrystopher, 1987; Chrystopher and Theivendirarajah, 1988a,b) and the trees can be used therefore over a long period.
This is an example of a very destructive practice but it's still sustainable - they tap clonal palm clusters - all growing up from the same plant - they leave some of the stems and new ones grow. They believe it's sustainable so long as there aren't too many tappers. They tap the stems after only one to two years.
This is based on what the local tappers themselves say:
QUOTE The tapping process starts with the selection of clonal palm clusters which contain most stems of a desirable size. A tapper then fills the cluster with dry leaves and grass and burns it to clear the area. The remaining leaves are then cut off and the stems are debarked and sliced until the sap start flowing. The sap that flows in the first day is disposed, because they believe that it causes stomach ache and diarrhea. After that, the sap is collected two to three times a day until the stems dries up. Each time the sap is collected the stems are sliced to stimulate sap flow. If the sap continues flowing even after the above-ground section of the stem is cut down to ground level, they dig around it to uncover the below-ground section and tap it.
The tappers estimated that each tapped stem produces an average of 0.6 ± 0.3 l of sap per day, and lasts for about 56 ± 24 days before the sap flow ceases.
Sixty-eight percent of tappers believed that the palm abundance in the area had increased in the past five years, against only 19% that believed that it had decreased. The high rate of lateral shoot production after being tapped was mentioned by 60% of tappers as the main reason for the increase in palm abundance.
Tappers that considered palm abundance to have decreased mentioned several reasons for the decrease: i) increase in the number of tappers (8%), ii) the removal of the stem meristem (3%), iii) increase in trade (3%) and iv) that tapped stems take a long time to recover (3%).
Tappers in Zitundo stated that they follow some local conservation practices. All respondents said that they do not tap all palm stems within a cluster. Ninety-six percent mentioned leaving the smaller stems to grow to be used in future. The mean stem height targeted for tapping was 57 ± 42 cm. Forty-three percent of tappers affirmed that the minimum stem height used was between 10 and 30 cm while 35% believed that it should be between 31 and 50 cm. Twenty-two percent of tappers believed that it takes one to two years growth to reach the minimum stem size for tapping. Seventy percent of tappers believed that tapping activities do not affect the growth and reproduction of the palms while 11% believed that it does. The results show that although the reasons for doing so may vary, there are local management practices followed by tappers with regard to number of stems left uncut and leaving smaller steams to grow
I can't find anything about the effects on trees of just hacking into the bark near the roots. But trees can survive barking by animals even if they remove the bark all the way around the tree leaving just one small part connected. So I'd be surprised if it matters depending perhaps on how much is tapped.
SCIENTISTS DON’T KNOW EFFECT OF WARMING ON THE PEAT BANKS FOR SURE YET - BUT MOST PROJECTIONS ARE FOR THE CONGO TO GET WETTER NOT DRIER WITH WARMING
3. Then on the peat banks and the amount of CO2, scientists don't know what the effect of warming will be. But projections generally show the Congo getting wetter with global warming. So the peat likely grows better in a warmer world. This is AR6 wg2 Figure 4.16 from chapter 4 of the full report. In this map the Zaire river is the former name of the Congo river. As you can see most projections are for it to get wetter in a warmer world. I've edited the map to remove all except the African basins to make it easier to read (the figure is very complex).https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGII_FinalDraft_FullReport.pdf
Text on image: The Zaire river is the former name of the Congo river.
Most projections are for the Congo to get wetter with warming
The peat banks would grow, not shrink if it gets wetter.
THE CONGO BASIN IS AMONGST THE MOST INTACT OF ALL THE TROPICAL RAINFORESTS
4. People have lived in and around these peatlands for centuries and there is research into how they have manged to do it sustainably. They are amongst the most intact of all the tropical rainforests. The people there are a source of knowledge and there is research into how they do it sustainably. That's from a Mongabay article but first, a short summary video:
SHORT SUMMARY VIDEO ABOUT THE PEAT BANK
Some main points from the video:
Started to form 40,000 years ago.
Store equivalent of 3 years of current emissions.
Discovered in 2017.
Covered by pristine rainforest.
Used sustainably by local people.
Greater investment neede to understand them and monitor them and use them to design programs to meet the urgent development needs and protect the peatlands to make sure it stays in the ground.
[But there is no realistic risk of losing it all! Tree years current emissions is equivalent to less than a twentieth of a degree C (3*39.5/2222 - you divide the total by 2222 to get the degree C rise, quite easy to remember �� ) but no way that those whole 2 meters thickness of peat could be lost over the entire region. Some small fraction depending how much is developed and what thickness of it is lost]
The Mongabay article is here (they are an excellent source on this sort of thing I've found - up there with Carbon Brief in accuracy]The past, present and future of the Congo peatlands: 10 takeaways from our series
With oil exploration - it may be possible to extract it with little by way of disruption by using methods similar to offshore drilling. But there are concerns about the effects of oil spills, and road construction which could damage the peatlands.
Turning the peatlands over to agriculture especially oil date plantations would be unwise - Indonesia shows how this can cause problems. It's much easier to conserve the peatlands than to restore them if they are damaged.
The Republic of Congo and and the DRC signed an agreement to manage them sustainably in 2018.
The leaders in both countries say they need international finance to manage the peatlands sutainably and the UN is looking inot how to do this through REDD+
The CO2 levels increasing could increase plant growth. But if warming changes the timing of the wet / dry season it is possible it could dry the peat out.https://news.mongabay.com/2021/12/the-past-present-and-future-of-the-congo-peatlands-10-takeaways-from-our-series/
This is a conclusion from a paper from 2019 studying the Basin,. it says they are relatiely intact still and nows the time to conserve them.
The peatlands of the Cuvette Centrale are carbon-rich ecosystems supporting highly valued but also vulnerable vertebrate species. Here, we have highlighted the potential threats to these peatlands, which include climate change, hydrocarbon exploration, logging, large-scale agriculture and the possible synergies between them. At present, the Cuvette Centrale peatlands are relatively intact and many of the threats may appear somewhat distant. Now is therefore the time to take action to ensure their protection. We suggest that conservation activities could be funded through a combination of climate, biodiversity and development funding, using the existing Ramsar designations that cover most of the peatlands as a framework for design and implementation of comprehensive management plans that protect the hydrology from modification. There is ongoing work on land-use planning in the Congo Basin through the Central African Forests Initiative, which could provide an opportunity to clarify national policies for peatland protection and management and integrate them into wider planning.
Our ability to assess the threat from, for example, climate change to the peatlands is limited by our lack of knowledge of the past response of the peatlands to climatic changes, their present-day hydrology and the future climate of the region over the twenty-first century. Much is still to be done to fully understand the form and function of these peatland ecosystems, and to assess their vulnerabilities. Whilst ultimately decisions over a nation’s socio-economic development priorities are beyond the remit of the scientific community, researchers can identify and address knowledge gaps and do more to ensure that new research findings reach key decision makers. One critical research gap is our lack of understanding of the interplay between peat, fauna and flora, and local livelihoods. For example, as has also been demonstrated for South East Asian peatlands (Thornton et al. 2016), we know that local populations depend heavily on fishing as a key source of protein, and that some of that fishing takes place within the peat swamps themselves. But we do not know how fish populations in the rivers and swamps are connected, if at all, nor what additional diversity, and/or resource resilience, is supported by peatland habitats within the landscape as a whole. This is just one example of the possible synergies that might exist between carbon, biodiversity and socio-economic motivations for the careful management of Cuvette Centrale peatlands. Future research therefore needs to integrate knowledge from local communities, the natural sciences and social sciences, to develop a more holistic understanding of the Cuvette Centrale peatlands and facilitate local communities and their governments to manage and protect this globally significant region.
The science group reseraching it, CongoPeat have retweeted the BBC story - they like to see their work brought to attention. I don't think they give much thought to the hyperbole in it.https://twitter.com/CongoPeat
This is a professor retweeting it.
Great seeing this @BBCWorld story about the Congo Peatlands and their threats, highlighting the fantastic work done by all the scientists in our @CongoPeat project, from the UK, DRC and Republic of Congo (and other countries too). https://t.co/zUYcwk7hgb @NERCscience pic.twitter.com/r2Weriz3PV— Ed Mitchard ️ (@EdMitchard) June 17, 2022
This is the BBC video which is more accurate, but it still talks about us being able to breathe depending on the peat which is utter nonsense but something many people beleive through repetition. .
The peat isn't really a new discovery, they've known about it since 2017. This is a CarbonBrief article from 2018 which is when they started the project CongoPeat, a three year project to study it intensively with the aim of finding out how to protect it and to improve ways to model happens to it under global warming.
MUCH IS BEING DONE GLOBALLY TO PRESERVE AND REWET PEATLAND
We can also do a lot of carbon sequestration by restoring peat bogs. Many peat bogs have been drained, and in Scotland they even tried to plant trees in them, with varying success. Now many of those trees are being dug up again, as they realize it is actually better in terms of carbon sequestration to keep the peat bogs wet and not try to convert them to forest.
This is about peat bog restoration in Scotland mainly.
And this is about peatland rewetting in Russia.
Per hectare it costs 30 euros for project planning and 30 euros for implementation. Nature takes care of the rest. We take an ecological re-wetting approach. To keep the rain water in the peatlands, we fill the drainage channels with peat and build dams using local materials in carefully calculated locations. That way, the water no longer runs off. Instead, it seeps sideways and down into the depths to re-saturate the dried-out peat. Then the natural peat formation process and the sponge effect come into play.
Overview of peatland rewetting from IUCN
As an example, rewilding Europe is financing a project to rewet peatland, this is a photograph from a project in Finland, a country with huge potential for peatland capture
The costs of large-scale ecosystem restoration are often prohibitive – this is another reason why the EU is currently falling short on its restoration targets. As the policy brief points out, restoring self-sustaining, functioning ecosystems that require little human intervention can help to reduce the financial burden of creating coherent ecological networks, supporting restoration at greater scale and providing new opportunities for managing land that is otherwise economically unproductive.
Working with restored nature can – in a timely and cost-effective way – draw down carbon from the atmosphere, protect us from flooding and coastal erosion, stabilise crops, minimise the threat of wildfire, secure drinking water supplies, ensure human health and wellbeing, and drive economic growth. By supporting rewilding, the EU Biodiversity Strategy post-2020 can help to deliver all these benefits and more.
Video about it herehttps://vimeo.com/122000332
. Finland | OPOE (http://casestudies.ourplaceonearth.org/Finland/)
. Bringing back nature to the EU in the post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy | Rewilding Europe (Bringing back nature to the EU in the post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy | Rewilding Europe)
This is a similar project in Russia.
In cold regions like Russia, Peat, like another project, the Mammoth steppe, can also help keep the permafrost frozen. It stops the water flowing and acts as a blanket to protect the permafrost from melting.
Courtesy of Frontiers 2018/19 Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern, UN Environment
It is good to have attention for the Congo basin to help make sure it stays intact and doesn’t go the way of some of the Indonesian rainforest.
WHY - OH WHY - DOES THE BBC HAVE TO PEPPER THESE STORIES WITH INACCURATE AND SCARY FACTCHOIDS?
But why - oh why - does the BBC have to pepper these stories with so much inaccurate and scary factoids that fail the most basic fact check?
Why oh why do BBC journalists feel they have to sprinkle articles with false and misleading factoids like a claim that we will run out of oxygen - FALSELY SCARY FACTOIDS - NOT TRUE - that fail the most basic fact check if they asked any scientists ???
Image from Pixabay pepper-spice-food-cooking
This makes the BBC articles on climate change so scary for vulnerable people who take what they say literally.
Also even for people who don’t get scared and can recognize that it is click bait / hyperbole - the false factoids are so seamlessly woven into the story that it’s impossible to know what is true and what is factoids without researching on more reliable sites like Mongabay or Carbon brief.
FOR MOST READERS THIS IS A STORY CONFIRMING MACRON’S TWEET ABOUT THE ~”LUNGS OF HUMANITY”
For most readers this story IS a story confirming Macron’s tweet about the “lungs of humanity” under threat - meaning we risk not being able to breathe in the future - in the title and reinforced in the body of text.
There is no way the BBC journalists don’t know this. One of the first things they would do is to check what their story looks like in Google searches - and there I didn’t do anything in the search term to try to bring up lungs. I just searched for “Congo peat” congo peat - Google Search
The BBC article is the first in Google News and it says it’s a story about the “lungs of humanity”.
“Lungs” is repeated in the title and in the snippet that the Google algorithm chooses to show to me even though I’m not searching for “lungs” or any remotely related key word.
MACRON’S TWEET IS ABOUT OXYGEN AND THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE REFERRING TO IN THE TITLE
It is the title I’m fact checking there. For many people it is the only thing they read in the story, they see it in google news snippets. If they click through it’s to check the title.
If they do check the title in the story, it is reinforced by that line in the text. “The lungs of humanity are under threat” in the title. Most people will understand that to refer to Macron’s tweet which the BBC covered before. They are referencing this tweet
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% 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! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
The BBC reported Macron’s tweet at the time without any critical comment.
QUOTE Mr Macron, who will host the G7 summit of leading industrial nations at the weekend, warned that the health of the Amazon was a matter of international concern.
"Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon - the lungs which produce 20% of our planet's oxygen - is on fire," Mr Macron tweeted, using the hashtag #ActForTheAmazon.
"It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 summit, let's discuss this emergency."
They often refer to this, and there’s no doubt how the general public understand it, as a risk that we won’t be able to breathe due to running out of oxygen.
Also in the BBC news story Arlette Soudan-Nonault, Minister for the Environment for the Republic of Congo says:
QUOTE Congo's peatlands are the words lungs but rich nations the biggest polluters should pay for that service should pay to protect them why should we stay poor so you can breathe.
The commentator says
QUOTE A reasonable question but outside help has been slow to reach these isolated forests.
Then you also need the context, the BBC has often run this story and it has NEVER debunked it. Never ran the story that Macon’s tweet is a false claim.
I don’t think many of the general public are aware that this story is false.
CAN WE BE POISONED BY RISING CO2? ANSWER - NO
You could read it the other way as so much CO2 in the atmosphere that we can’t breathe and treat the “lungs of the planet” as the trees removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
It is clear from Macron’s tweet that he didn’t mean it this way, and it makes even less logical sense as a metaphor.
That would suggest we die of CO2 poisoning - which is also completely false, first, CO2 emissions can’t increase much due to trees burning down..
Even if we burnt all the vegetation in the world it would only add 211 ppm raising it from 411 to 622 ppm (calculation in my debunk).
Even with fossil fuel emissions, there is no way that CO2 levels even doubling to 0.08% comes anywhere near the 20% levels.
If we burnt all the available fossil fuels, (which hopefully we will have enough sense not to do) including shale gas, tar sands and other unconventional reserves, one estimate puts the amount of CO2 it would generate at 1400 ppm or 0.14% CO2.
That’s well below the level of 5,000 ppm level of 0.5% which is the current allowed inspired levels of CO2 - with calls to increase it to 2% or 20,000 ppm because even at 2%, the effects are reversible and do no harm to us and do not make any difference to performance or normal physical activity. Carbon Dioxide Tolerance and Toxicity
For details see my:
None of that is anything to do with not being able to breathe either.
BBC HAS A WHOLE TEAM DEVOTED TO FACT CHECKS CALLED “REALITY CHECK” - THEY HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO CHECK THEIR STORIES
The BBC often do fact checks. It has a whole team devoted to it, “Reality Check”.
They even fact check some climate change stories:
BUT THEY HAVEN’T FACT CHECK MACRON’S TWEET TO MY KNOWLEDGE, OR DEEP ADAPTATION, OR MANY OTHER STORIES THAT FAIL BASI FACT CHECK
But they don’t fact check this claim about running out of oxygen. They haven’t fact checked Deep Adaptation. Or human population to collapse in 20 years. Or Koalas already functionally extinct. Or that SF6 is a major effect on climate. Or that societies will collapse.
Those are just the ones from my screenshot.
BBC FACT CHECK OF INSECTAGEDDON - GIVES THE RESEARCHER THE LAST WORD AND ENDS WITH A JOKE THAT FOR NAIVE LISTENERS REINFORCES THE IDEA THAT MOST INSECTS WILL GO EXTINCT BY 2100
They do sometimes do fact checks.
One example, the story about all insects going extinct by 2100. They ran this on the BBC too,
QUOTE "It's quite plausible that we might end up with plagues of small numbers of pest insects, but we will lose all the wonderful ones that we want, like bees and hoverflies and butterflies and dung beetles that do a great job of disposing of animal waste."
"If you look at what happened in the major extinctions of the past, they spawned massive adaptive radiations where the few species that made it through adapted and occupied all the available niches and evolved into new species," Prof Goulson told BBC News.
"So give it a million years and I've no doubt there will be a whole diversity of new creatures that will have popped up to replace the ones wiped out in the 20th and 21st centuries.
"Not much consolation for our children, I'm afraid."
They do a fact check here, but how many people will listen - also they gave the authors of the study the last word on everything.
They explain some of the limitations
- That the researchers used “decline*” in their search terms to find the studies which would bias towards declining populations
- Biomass studies were based on three studies, one in the UK, one in Germany and one in Puerta Rica - the only one not in Europe. But the Puerta Rica one is based on only two data points decades apart and insect populations often go up and down so you need to know what happens in between, and the German one, which is the best one of the three still had shortcomings that they didn’t have the traps in the same place or the same number of traps over the study period.
Their debunk is here:
They mentioned most of the things in my debunk. But they didn’t mention everything, they didn’t mention for instance
- that this study’s only data point for China and Australia were studies of managed domestic honey bees.
The key take-home is the amount of white space on this map of available data showing local/regional declines. Most countries have no data. N.B. the single data points in Australia&China are both managed honey bees, not wild insects pic.twitter.com/PNNlZ7yGaR— Dr Manu Saunders (@ManuSaunders) February 3, 2019
- That later research found the insects in Puerta Rica are increasing as you’d expect . OOPS - Puerto Rican insects in the forest canopy increase with warmth - not decline - and frogs like the warmth too - but this is probably after their fact check, it confirmed the issue that they raise about two data points, the earlier data point was artificially inflated because it came shortly after Hurrican Irma and the blown over trees and clearings boosted insects.
- That the German study, if it is valid it is probably to do with intensive agriculture and insecticides not warming - you expect warming to increase the number of insects in higher latitudes too unless it also gets much drier ,because of a longer growing season - obviously wouldn’t get too hot for insects.
, Debunked: No the German research doesn’t mean that we face an “insect apocalypse”]
Then, after explaining most of the reasons why the sstudy was flawed the fact check ends
QUOTE “And remember, look after the insects, we’ll miss them when they are gone’.
For the people I help - who take things literally and don’t get it when somehting is meant humoursly and not seriously - that will undo the entire fact check.
So - this was a sort of a fact check but not a very good one.
THERE IS A CONVERSATION ABOUT ENHANCING BBC FACT CHECKS AND INTEGRATING IT MORE INTO ITS JOURNALISM
They have the apparatus there to do reality checks on all of those - and a reality check would then show that none of those stories are correct.
There is a conversation around enhancing the BBC fact checking apparatus including the idea of integrating Reality Check more directly into the reporting instead of just doing it after the fact.
QUOTE Having been commissioned to carry out five BBC impartiality reviews, as well as leading a large-scale research study about how journalistic legitimacy can be enhanced by public service broadcasters, I welcome Davie’s new plans. But, given the struggles the BBC has had with implementing previous commitments to beef up its impartiality credentials, it remains to be seen how far new editorial practices such as more prominently fact-checking claims can inform its journalism.
And yet, the ongoing research in which I’m involved has found that while the BBC’s Reality Check routinely fact-checks claims on its website, this does not regularly inform wider BBC news output, including the flagship BBC bulletin, the News at Ten. Put simply, fact-checking does exist at the BBC, but it could be ramped up much more and inform BBC journalism more widely.
In 2019, I contributed to an Ofcom study on the Range and Depth of BBC News that examined BBC journalism and its audiences. The study concluded that the BBC “should feel able to challenge controversial viewpoints that have little support or are not backed up by facts, making this clear to viewers, listeners and readers”. It went on to say that, since audiences largely respect BBC journalism, “This should give the BBC confidence to be bolder in its approach.”
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION (IMHO) - THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT FOR STORIES THAT HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO MAKE READERS ANXIOUS, DEPRESSED AND SUICIDAL
I think this is especially important for failed fact checks that lead to their readers and viewers becoming depressed, anxious and suicidal. IMHO Those should have top priority over fact checks of e.g. the personal lives of politicians.
It would be great if they could extend this to serious fact checking of climate change science - and things like the La Palma megatsunami - another BBC false story that is often shared and believed to this day.
IMHO MAINSTREAM MEDIA SHOULD ALSO BE REQUIRED TO GO BACK AND LABEL STORIES THAT FAIL FACT CHECK AS FALSE AS PEOPLE OFTEN FIND AND RESHARE THEM YEARS LATER - PERHAPS AS SOME INDUSTRY WIDE VOLUNTARY PROFESSIONAL CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MAINSTREAM MEDIA?
I think personally the BBC should be required to edit the stories like that which you can find in Google searches from the past that they know are false and fail fact check and say prominently right at the start of the story that it failed fact check with a link to the fact check for that story.
I think the NY Times and other mainstream media should be required to do the same. This is one of the worst NY Times stories, with the lead author of the study tweeting the Snopes debunk - yet there is nothing in the story to indicate that it is false, to this day.
Hard to see how that could be enforced legally - maybe some kind of treaty? But it could be enforced by a professional journalists code of conduct that news organizations enter into voluntarily to improve the quality of their profession.
NOT AN ISOLATED STORY ON THE BBC - THEY HAVE NUMEROUS FAILED FACT CHECKS LIKE THIS
It’s not an isolated example. For many more see my:
There have been many since then too, I’ve given up trying to keep a comprehensive list.
Seven tips for dealing with doomsday fears
If you are scared: Seven tips for dealing with doomsday fears which also talks about health professionals and how they can help.
If in the middle of a panic attack, see
- Breathe in and out slowly and deeply to calm a panic attack
- Tips from CBT - might help some of you to deal with doomsday anxieties
- STOPP skill
Facebook support group
Facebook group Doomsday Debunked has been set up to help anyone who is scared by fake doomsdays including climate doomism.
We also welcome fact checkers to help the scared people.
Please check the group rules before posting or commenting as they are the main reason we are able to run the group smoothly, thanks!
If you need help
Do message me on Quora or PM me on Facebook if you need help.
There are many others in the group who are available to support scared people via PM and who can also debunk fake Doomsday “news” for you if you get scared of a story and are not sure if it is true.
If you are feeling suicidal remember help is available including emergency help. It is a crisis and needs medical help as much as a heart attack.
See my tips here:
Also don’t forget if you need someone to talk to, there’s always help a phone call away with the List of suicide crisis lines - Wikipedia