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Fracking identified as the most likely cause of global spike in atmospheric methane

MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2019: Fracking for shale oil and gas is the most likely cause behind a massive spike in methane concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere, new research from Cornell University in the US finds.

The research published this month in the Journal Biogeosciences points to fracking for shale oil and gas as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. 

The research notes that methane has been rising rapidly in the atmosphere over the past decade contributing to global climate change. 

In the past, agriculture has been blamed for the rising levels of methane but the study found that finger printing of the methane isotopes indicated its source was more likely to be coming from shale oil and gas fracking than cattle or rice paddies.

The papers concluded that “shale-gas production in North America over the past decade may have contributed more than half of all of the increased emissions from fossil fuels globally and approximately one-third of the total increased emissions from all sources globally over the past decade.”

It also noted that reducing methane emissions offers one of the best routes for immediately slowing the rate of global warming. This is because the climate system responds more quickly to methane. 

 “Given our finding that natural gas (both shale gas and conventional gas) is responsible for much of the recent increases in methane emissions, we suggest that the best strategy is to move as quickly as possible away from natural gas, reducing both carbon dioxide and methane emissions,” the study authors concluded.

The paper found that in addition to contributing to climate change, methane emissions also led to increased ground level ozone levels, with significant damage to public health and agriculture. 

It costed the impacts of the damage to public health, agriculture and the climate at between $US25 billion to $US55 Billion a year for each of the past several years. A figure it noted was comparable to the wholesale value for US shale gas over the same period.

More than 50 leading scientists and other experts warned the WA Government in an open letter in September last year that allowing fracking in WA would be “grossly irresponsible” given the urgency of the current climate situation. 

International research organisation Climate Analytics found in a report released last year that the greenhouse gas emissions created by fracking all of WA’s unconventional gas resources proposed for development, would be three times more than Australia’s entire energy sector emissions budget under the Paris Agreement. It also found that developing WA’s vast unconventional gas resources in the Canning Basin alone would produce carbon pollution two times more than Australia’s total carbon energy budget.

A spokesperson for Frack Free WA said the science was clearly pointing to the need to ban fracking in WA.

“Fracking has not started in WA; we can put an end to this dirty polluting industry before it gets off the ground.”

The WA EPA is currently open for submissions from the public on what guidelines it should apply to polluters who emit greenhouse gas emissions.

Public submissions can be made online.

A proforma submission  email letter prepared by Frack Free WA is available here.

Check out the video open how to prepare your submission here: