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A 2014 international field campaign in South Africa’s Kruger National Park validated several satellite fire detection products including the new Suomi NPP 375-meter product. Photo: Meraka Institute CSIR, South Africa
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Is Greta Thunberg listening to science?

Arriving in New York on Wednesday, August 28, the young activist Greta Thunberg immediately attacked Donald Trump. He is guilty, according to her, of refusing "to listen to science". But is Greta herself listening to science?

Published: August 30, 2019, 7:45 am

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    The teenager will not take advantage of her visit to meet with the US president, she told CBS News. Asked about the prospect of a meeting with Donald Trump, Thunberg said, “Why would I waste time talking to him when he obviously will not listen to me?”

    Two weeks after leaving Europe, Thunberg arrived in New York, and while attending the media event, she nevertheless initiated a one-way conversation with the US leader, French daily Le Figaro reported. Thunberg attacked Donald Trump and evoked the fires in the Amazon, which are “a clear sign that we must stop destroying nature,” according to her.

    “My message to [Donald Trump] is ‘Listen to science’, but clearly he does not. As I say every time I am asked this question, if no one has been able to convince him of the urgency of the climate crisis, why can I do it?” The Swedish teenager added during the press conference that the fires ravaging the Amazon were “disastrous”.

    But satellite data show 6 902 fires in the sub-Saharan African country Angola blazing in past 48 hours while the Congo has counted over 3 000 fires. Brazil, by comparison, only counted some 2 000 fires.

    The fires in the Amazon have been used to attack the environmental policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, but Brazil is currently only third in the world in wildfires, when counting the last 48 hours, according to MODIS satellite data analyzed by Weather Source.

    Weather Source recorded 6 902 fires in Angola over the past 48 hours, compared to 3 395 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 2 127 in Brazil. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon for Central Africa either, but Thunberg made no mention of Africa.

    According to NASA, which operates the Aqua satellite, over 67 000 fires were reported in a one-week period in June last year, because farmers use a method of slash and burn agriculture to clear land for growing crops.

    Seen from space over the last 48 hours, Zambia was fourth on the list, while Brazil’s neighbour in the Amazon, Bolivia, came sixth.

    Previous NASA satellite data products available since the early 2000s observed fires at a 1 kilometer resolution, while the new Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) increases the resolution of fire observations to 375 meters. It is one of the new intelligence tools used by the US to guide resource allocation and strategic decisions.

    Emmanuel Macron called the Amazon fires an “international crisis” destroying the “lungs of the world” at the G7 summit. The Amazon however does not produce 20 percent of the world’s oxygen, nor is it the “lungs” of anything, as it consumes as much of it as it creates.

    The picture that Macron posted on social media is also not from the current fires, but an old one. Moreover, as recently as in 2010 there were nearly three times as many fires in Brazil, as data from the INPE shows. Thus, deforestation is less than a quarter of the peak figure in 2004.

    The hundreds of millions in pledged donations were rejected by the Brazilan leader as colonial meddling in a sovereign state.

    The arrival of Malizia II was awaited by 17 boats of the UN. Greta Thunberg had sailed on August 14th from Plymouth, England, with her father aboard this carbon-free sailboat. Her trip was marked by a controversy over its ecological impact, much larger than neccessary. On September 23, the 16-year-old activist is scheduled to attend the UN climate summit.

    The environmental activist has decided to cross the Atlantic aboard a sailing boat that belongs to the Principality of Monaco because she refuses to fly “because of the climate”. This racing boat is supposed to emit zero carbon emissions and is skippered by Pierre Casiraghi, son of Princess Caroline of Monaco. The latter is also a shareholder of the Monacair company in Monaco, specializing in VIP transport by helicopter – not a climate-friendly enterprise.

    After the summit in New York, the teenager will travel to Canada and Mexico and then to Cop 25 in Chile at the end of December.

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