Get It Done in ’21: Why We Need a Fracking Ban NOW

“The atmosphere responds quickly to changes in methane emissions. Reducing methane now can provide an instant way to slow global warming.”

A. Ingraffea, Cornell, August 2019

Climate scientists warn that the recent surge in methane (CH4) emissions could doom the Paris Accords to failure, even if emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are brought under control. Banning fracking immediately is one of the most effective climate solutions available.

Methane emissions have continued to rise over the past decade and are tracking concentrations most consistent with the warmest marker scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (RCP8.5) that yields an estimated global warming of 4.3 °C by year 2100.

RB Jackson, M Saunois et al, Environmental Research Letters, July 2020

All the findings on catastrophic methane emissions gained new force last year, when Hmiel et al analyzed pre-industrial core samples. The research team found that science has overstated “natural” methane emissions by a factor of 10. They concluded that estimates of the share of methane emissions from fossil fuels must be revised upward by at least 25-40%.

The Fracking Boom and U.S. Emissions

Fracking, along with similar technologies for accessing hard-to-get fossil fuels, rose sharply in the last two decades. Much of this increase has been in the United States. The North American fracking boom is driving a massive spike in global emissions of methane (CH4), a super potent greenhouse gas that traps 86 times more heat than CO2 (Howarth, 2019).

Satellites have revealed the fracking heartland of the US is leaking a powerful greenhouse gas at a record-breaking rate. Wells are leaking 3.7 per cent of that gas into the atmosphere. The leakage rate is more than twice that assumed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

New Scientist, April 22, 2020

U.S. methane emissions have increased by more than 30% over the 2002–2014 period. This large increase in U.S. methane emissions could account for 30–60% of the global growth of atmospheric methane seen in the past decade.

A.J. Turner et al, Geophysical Research Letters, March 16, 2016

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

Robert Howarth, Biogeosciences, August 14, 2019

The United States has led a significant rise in methane emissions from North America. About 80 percent of the total increase for the region was driven by fossil fuels, underscoring the environmental fallout of America’s shale boom.

H. Tabuchi, New York Times, July 14, 2020

Why the U.S. needs to enact a fracking ban immediately

The good news is that since our activities are the source of these emissions, we can eliminate them.

CH4 persists in the atmosphere a short time, only about 12 years. This means that when fracking stops, the level of CH4 in the atmosphere begins to fall almost immediately. Immediate reduction of the huge volume of CH4 fracking emits is essential for slowing global warming.

Last year, a Fracking Ban Act was proposed in the U.S. (HR 5857 in the U.S. House of Representatives, S 3247 in the U.S. Senate). This kind of legislation is essential if we are to avert the worst outcomes of the climate crisis.

Novasutras encourages action to promote real climate solutions, including the Fracking Ban, the Deal for Nature and 30×30. Slowing climate change, and working to reverse it, are essential to the well-being of life all around the world. Climate action is a profound expression of agaya and ubuntu.

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