Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shale gas to the climate rescue

(reprinted from The New York Times)
By Alan Riley

The battle against runaway climate change is being lost. The green movement and the energy industry — while engaged in a furious debate on issues from nuclear power to oil sands — are missing the bigger picture.

There is little recognition by either side that current policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are inadequate for dealing with the threat that they pose. It is the coal-fueled growth of countries like China and India that generates much of these emissions. Unless a cheap, rapidly deployable substitute fuel is found for coal, then it will be next to impossible to safely rein in rising carbon dioxide levels around the world.
Although the green movement might at first see shale gas as an enemy in this fight, it may in fact turn out to be a friend. Broad development of shale gas resources — with proper ecological safeguards — could be the best way to achieve the quick cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that we need to maintain a habitable environment on Earth.
The International Energy Agency has made it clear that, under current energy policies, the door is closing on our attempts to contain the carbon-driven rise in global temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the middle of the century. In fact, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels reached a record high of 31.6 gigatons in 2011. With emissions rising by one gigaton per year, it appears the temperature-increase target will most likely be missed...

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