When news of the Amazon forest fires swept through the news media a week ago, one fact kept coming up that sounded vague, yet alarming. Numerous news stories referred to the Amazon as the "lungs of the world" and claimed that the Amazon is the source of 20% of the world's oxygen. The suggestion that our planet will run short of oxygen because of these forest fires is nonsense.
There are actual problems associated with the radical deforestation of the Amazon, and some of them have potential global impacts, including an exacerbation of human-caused climate change. However, an article on FactCheck.org, a political watchdog website, explains that the Amazon produces only about 6-9% of the world's oxygen and re-consumes most of that anyway. Yes, massive deforestation is bad. No, we are not running out of breathable air.