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Environmentalist debunks Amazon rainforest's 'lungs of the world' reputation

A well-travelled environmentalist has appeared on Seven Sharp to debunk some myths circulating about the recent Amazon wildfires.

American author Michael Shellenberger has lived in the Amazon area and was surprised to see many world leaders, including Jacinda Ardern, refer to the Amazon as "the lungs of the world".

"It's not true, they don't function at all like lungs. And it's also been associated with that they also produce oxygen.

"The French President said they produce 20 per cent of our oxygen. That's not true. In fact, the Amazon uses as much oxygen as it produces.

"There's a lot of reasons to want to save the Amazon forest. And this role - producing oxygen - is not one of them," Mr Shellenberger says.

He also takes issue with claims this year's wildfires are much larger than previous years.

"The biggest one is that these are record-breaking fires, record-breaking deforestation. We're still at a pretty low point in deforestation if you look back at the last 20 years," he told Seven Sharp.

Mr Shellenberger worries that sensationalising issues like the fires makes us think Earth is broken, can't be fixed, and everything's hopeless.

"I have encountered a lot of people online who basically go, 'Oh, it's all over and we've lost it, and the planet is coming to an end,' and it's like no!

"Eighty per cent of the Amazon is still standing, and we have a really good shot at keeping it at that level and not having it go down anymore."

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Michael Shellenberger, who has lived in the Amazon area, busted some inaccuracies for Seven Sharp. Source: Seven Sharp


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