In late January Dr John Broderick of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research gave a presentation about shale gas and its “low-carbon transition” credentials. Here MCFly reposts a report by Robbie Watt.
Shale gas is one of the most controversial and highest profile policy issues currently facing the UK, as well as other countries around the world. The New Researchers Network was privileged to get expert insight and specific research findings on this hot topic from Dr John Broderick of Tyndall Manchester. John took us through his policy appraisal work on shale gas, which has focused on the implications of pursuing shale for the UK’s national and international commitments to tackle climate change.
Industry enthusiasts have released statements claiming that shale gas is ‘a key part of a lower carbon economy’, claiming that shale gas is a transition fuel enabling society to become lower-carbon. But John critiqued both this position and showed us the scientific basis of his assessment.
The problem with the pro-shale view is that shale gas is only of relative benefit if coal – a more carbon intensive fuel than shale – stays in the ground. Alas, keeping coal in the ground is not likely at present due to the absence of strong climate policies. In the United States, where shale gas has been exploited significantly, the coal that is no longer needed domestically has been exported and burned elsewhere. Strong climate policies would be needed to ensure substitution of shale for coal, rather than addition of shale on top of coal. Since we do not have strong climate policies, bringing more fossil fuels on tap will increase cumulative emissions in the long run, working against our climate targets. This, indeed, is the conclusion of the UK government’s own review of shale gas at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Some politicians and fossil fuel advocates continue to claim that exploiting shale is compatible with reducing emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change. But their pro-shale conclusion is contrary to a reasonable interpretation of the evidence. John and other researchers at the Tyndall Centre have done the research to show the proposals for shale would further undermine our ability to keep global temperature rises to below two degrees of warming. With their publications, media work and policy engagement, John and the other researchers at Tyndall are arming society with the kinds of peer reviewed science that we need to undermine false claims promoted by industry players with vested interests in a high carbon and dangerous future.
The NRN coordinators want to thank Robert Watt, PhD candidate in Institute for Development Policy and Management, for writing this event report.