You probably already know this, if you paid attention in junior high science — the planet’s rainforests have been correctly characterized as the lungs of Earth.

That’s because trees in a rainforest scrub pollutant greenhouse gasses from our atmosphere, and in return pump oxygen back into the air. Scientists estimate 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen is a direct result of that cleansing/expelling action. Rainforests help maintain Earth’s water cycle by producing large amounts of rainfall throughout the year.

There’s only one gigantic rainforest left — and it’s burning down.

Fires, hundreds of them, are raging in the Amazon region covered by the rainforest, covering more than 2 million square miles — 10 times bigger than the state of Texas — which are being decimated by fires, many of which have been deliberately started to clear land for farming and commerce.

This deforestation effort is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on for years. But these newest fires are something of a far greater magnitude. Images from space show, clearly, what is transpiring, and smoke from the fires is drifting across vast oceans, clouding the skies of faraway nations.

Officials in Germany and Norway are on the verge of pulling out of a $1.2-billion Amazon conservation project because of the fires. It is their belief there will be nothing left to conserve.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has prioritized the financial interests of industries that want greater access to here-to-for protected lands. Bolsonaro’s policies have also placed in jeopardy trade agreements with the European Union and other South American nations. It took years to strike those deals.

The situation is so dire that celebrities are getting involved. Film star Leonardo DiCaprio asked his more than 30 million social media followers to become more environmentally conscious in a post, warning that “the lungs of the Earth are in flames.”

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Overly dramatic? More fake news from the environmental left? Not in the slightest.

Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, which keeps track of deforestation, has recorded more than 76,000 wildfires across the country this year, an 85-percent increase over last year. More than half of those fires have been spotted in the Amazon region.

Fires in a rainforest are almost always the work of humans, in large part because such forests have an abundance of rain, hence the name.

It’s not just trees being destroyed. About 20 percent of all of Earth’s plant species can be found in the Amazon region of the rainforest. Many of those species do not exist elsewhere on the planet.

Climate scientists estimate the “tipping point for the Amazon system” is about 25-percent deforestation. Without enough trees to create the rainfall needed by the forest, longer and more-pronounced dry seasons could turn more than a million rainforest acres into a tropical savannah. If the rain cycle collapses, winter droughts across South America could gut agriculture. Our own Midwestern farming states would likely also take a hit — something American farmers really don’t need in this age of global trade wars.

This is all an aspect of climate change that has gone virtually unnoticed, until the rainforest was set ablaze. Still, Brazil President Bolsonaro insists he is protecting the environment, “but without creating difficulties for our progress.”

We fail to see the balance or logic in such progress. It also seems to us that too many of our leaders around the world are fixated on immediate monetary gratification, without a thought or care about the health and welfare of future generations.

The science on all this is definitive — and smoke continues to billow.

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