Top Climate Scientist Says UK Fracking Plans 'Ignore Science'
Fracking has made a comeback — and people aren't happy.
It’s been a weird week.
The Backstreet Boys brought hat-laden '90s choreography to Strictly Come Dancing; ITV announced a one-hour Black Eyed Peas documentary hosted by “friend and big fan” Joanna Lumley; and Westlife are not only still making music (gasp!) — they’re going back on tour.
But it appears that one particular comeback has drawn more scepticism than the others.
Fracking’s back, alright!
Fracking, the controversial process that extracts fossil fuels from shale rock, returned to Lancashire, England, on Monday for the first time since earthquakes were recorded in Blackpool in 2011 — and yep, fracking reportedly causes earthquakes.
And James Hansen, a man known as the “father of climate science,” has spoken out about it.
“So the UK joins Trump, ignores science … full throttle ahead with the worst fossil fuels,” Hansen said to the Observer. “The science is crystal clear, we need to phase out fossil fuels starting with the most damaging, the unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and fracking.”
Hansen was director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies for over two decades, and is believed to be the first person to propel climate change to national news coverage after he told a Senate committee that “the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now” in June 1988.
Thirty years on, Hansen is still working to get politicians to take climate change seriously — and has written a letter to UK energy minister and Conservative MP Claire Perry to warn her that the decision to push ahead with fracking will contribute to “climate breakdown,” and seriously undermine Britain’s ability to meet its climate targets, according to the Guardian.
“If the UK were to join the US by developing gas fields at this point in time it will lock in the methane problem for decades,” Hansen wrote in the letter. “The fossil fuel companies are well aware methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and yet they seem willing to continue on a path which can have disastrous consequences for our grandchildren.”
Perry has reportedly considered relaxing regulation on earthquake limits — which would make it easier for companies to frack in England, reports the Guardian.
But at the same time, she’s requested that Britain’s Committee on Climate Change consider whether the UK’s long-term carbon goals could be even more ambitious — after a terrifying UN report revealed that there is just 12 years left to save the planet from climate change.
But hold on a jiff — what is fracking, anyway?
It’s short for “hydraulic fracturing” and — as you might have worked out already— it’s a process that actually breaks into the ground with high pressure water and chemicals to extract oil and gas.
The natural gas released includes methane, a greenhouse gas which when leaked into the atmosphere can have a catastrophic impact increasing global temperatures. Fracking is proven to cause earthquakes, pollute water supplies, and damage local environments beyond repair.
It’s already banned in Scotland and Wales — and across the whole country, just 16% of the population supported the process in 2017, according to an annual study by the Business and Energy Department. That was down from 21% the previous year, and the lowest since recordings began six years ago.
In Little Plumpton, Lancashire, protests against against energy firm Cuadrilla continued throughout Monday. Among protesters were an Oxford graduate who chained himself by the neck to a homemade tower balanced on top of a truck; a couple who locked themselves into a large wheel called “the beast”, designed to hold up traffic; and punk fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, captured breakdancing among campaigners to ABBA’s in-vogue hit “Dancing Queen”.
And on Wednesday, three men initially jailed for their part in peaceful protests against Cuadrilla in September were released after the judge ruled their prison sentences were “excessive.”
“Your planet needs you,” one of the activists urged crowds after walking free.
Hansen can relate: he’s been arrested on multiple occasions for protesting projects across the United States that he felt put global climate progress in danger.
“I urgently call upon politicians of any persuasion to reflect on the peer-reviewed scientific information that is readily available and which clearly points to the need to rapidly phase down fossil emissions,” Hansen continued in his letter to Perry. “A task made much more difficult and probably implausible if the world exacerbates the problem by expanding fossil fuel emissions via fracking technology.”
The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits, including the creation of well-paid, quality jobs.”