Saturday 16 December 2017

Fracking could help us combat climate change, says UN report

IPCC Working Group III Co-Chairs Youba Sokona, Ramon Pichs-Madruga, Ottmar Edenhofer and Chairman Rajendra Pachauri (L-R) Photo: Reuters
IPCC Working Group III Co-Chairs Youba Sokona, Ramon Pichs-Madruga, Ottmar Edenhofer and Chairman Rajendra Pachauri (L-R) Photo: Reuters

Sam Griffin

UN climate chiefs have backed fracking as part of the solution to global warming – but warned that a massive expansion of green energy will be crucial to prevent devastating extremes of climate change.

Scientists now say that man-made emissions grew more quickly in the past decade than in the previous three.

Experts have warned emission release needs to be stopped almost entirely within the next 100 years.

The report, by the Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), outlines a number of more energy efficient means but says implementation will give us only "a better then even chance" that global warming will not accelerate further.

It also states the world must at least treble its use of green and low-carbon sources of power, such as solar farms, wind farms and nuclear reactors by 2050.

However, the report finds there is also a role for gas to replace much dirtier coal plants.

An Taisce yesterday called on the Government to introduce an annual carbon budget to achieve the "near zero" emission target set in the IPCC report.

The Green Party criticised the Government's decision to drop plans for the construction of over 1,000 wind turbines on the same day the report, calling for more energy efficient measures, was published.

Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the working group that drew up the report, said it was "quite clear" that shale gas – extracted through the controversial process of fracking – "can be very consistent with low carbon development and decarbonisation".


Fracking, which sees a well drilled into the ground and then large volumes of water mixed with sand and chemicals injected underground at high pressure, has long been considered a viable energy option for Ireland.

Currently two companies, Tamboran Resources and Enegi Oil have options to secure exploration licences allowing them to look for shale gas underneath parts of Clare, Leitrim, Sligo and Fermanagh. However, the process is controversial as the long-term implications of fracking are unknown. The chemical mix used by each company is also different, and there are concerns this could contaminate groundwater.

There are also fears that fracking has led to plate movement and even earthquakes in the US.

The IPCC report says: "Greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants, provided that natural gas is available and the fugitive emissions associated with extraction and supply are low or mitigated."

Mr Edenhofer stressed that the shale gas revolution could be "very helpful" but only if the world committed to tackling climate change and did not simply burn more gas as well as coal.

Over 1,000 experts were consulted in the research, which is the third in a series of environmental reports endorsed by governments around the world, including Ireland.

It lays out a number of "pathways" to limit the threat of global warming and keep global temperature change below 2C relative to pre-industrial levels.

"Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions," Dr Edenhofer said.

"There is a clear message from science: to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual."

Irish Independent

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