A breaking study by climate scientist, Professor Robert Howarth, has revealed a damning conclusion for the oil and gas industry: fracking for gas has increased global methane emissions. In his latest paper, Ideas and perspectives: is shale gas a major driver of recent increase in global atmospheric methane?, Howarth’s conclusion correlates with previous papers, including the Mobbs Report, which was the centre of our recent High Court case where a judge declared that the government’s policy on fracking planning policy, specifically taking climate change into account, was “…so flawed in its design and processes as to be unlawful.”

Emerging scientific evidence that has been published since 2015, dismissed the UK government’s claims that fracking has a lower carbon footprint than imported liquid natural gas (LNG). The suggestions have been that fracking in fact, exacerbates climate change.

Whitehall’s Fracking Science Failure

Commissioned in 2017 by Talk Fracking, Whitehall’s Fracking Science Failure: How the Government Has Misled Parliament and the Public on the Climate Change Impacts of Shale Oil and Gas Development in Britain, also known as the Mobbs Report, debunked much of the government’s heavily relied upon, Mackay-Stone report. Evidence outlined in the Mobbs Report was never considered before publishing the revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework in July 2018.

Professor Howarth’s findings include that natural gas, from both shale and conventional sources, is responsible for a large amount of the recent methane increases, and to keep in line with the 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that we should be rapidly moving away from natural gas to reduce emissions from both carbon dioxide and methane.

“Natural gas is not a bridge fuel,” says Professor Howarth, and as well as contributing to climate change, emissions of natural gas push up concentrations of ground-level ozone which is a public health hazard.

Today Nick Cowern, Emeritus Professor at Newcastle University, said:

“This work partly explains why the global climate has warmed so strongly in the last few years, affecting summer temperatures, melting sea ice and accelerating sea-level rise. Instead of cutting the atmospheric concentrations of powerful greenhouse gases like methane, fossil industry emissions – dominated by emissions from fracking – have forced up methane concentrations to unprecedented levels.

A spokesman from Frack Free United said:

“The results in this report confirm the suspicions of climate campaigners everywhere, and shows that fracking is driving climate change: one third of the total increase in global methane emissions since 2008 has come from shale gas, and that shale gas makes up more than half of the global increase in emissions due to fossil fuels.

“Methane is driving climate change faster than ever, and its not just that, methane emissions have significant damage to public health and agriculture and the cost implications alone are huge. Time to act. Time to ban fracking.”

Public Health Hazard

How will the industry and government seek to dismiss this latest finding? Only yesterday, we posted a quote from Dr Sandra Steinberger, who stated:

“The number of studies on the risks and harms of fracking in the peer-reviewed scientific literature quardrupled between Dec 2014, when there were 400+ studies, to April 2019, when there were 1700+.”

Will Public Health England now be updating their fracking report on health to include ALL new studies? With the growing evidence that fracking is a climate killer and a public health hazard, it’s hard to see why authorities with a remit for public health and safety wouldn’t fulfil their obligations to conduct a thorough review, as requested by Doctors Rugman and Kneale here. A refusal to do so has been described as a “negligent failure” and could well be grounds for litigation.