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Stop Coal Seam Gas. Zero emissions by 2050

climate-targetMan-made global warming or anthropogenic  global warming (AGW) is threatening Humanity and the Biosphere. In particular a huge threat is posed by the increasing exploitation of natural gas from coal seams (coal seam gas) as an energy source. Gas is dirty energy and set out below are 3 major reasons why the World must stop coal seam gas (CSG) exploitation.

There is a gas rush worldwide as fossil fuel corporations seek to exploit natural gas as a source of energy. Notwithstanding  the endless false claims that “gas is clean”, natural gas (mainly methane, CH4) is a dirty energy source. Thus burning 1 tonne of methane generate 2.8 tonnes of the greenhouse gas (GHG) carbon dioxide (CO2) whereas burning carbon (C, the major constituent of black coal) yields 3.7 tonnes of CO2.  However CH4 leaks and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year time frame. Depending upon the source, burning gas for power can be worse GHG-wise than burning coal.

A major new source of gas are deep coal seams and this gas is referred to variously as coalbed gas, coalbed methane or coal seam gas (CSG). A major mechanism for liberating such gas involved hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in which water containing a variety of additives is pumped into coal seams to fracture them. This ‘fracking” process can pollute underground aquifers with fracking chemicals. Water then removed to permit gas escape from fractured coal seams can be saline and represents a major surface pollutant. For accounts of coal seam gas (CSG) extraction Google “Coalbed methane”  ; see the devastating movie “Gasland”; and see the “Coal seam gas fact sheet” on the website of the Lock The Gates Alliance of indignant Australian farmers: ).

From a scientific perspective (I am a 5-decade career biological chemist and after 40 years still teaching agricultural science students at a major Australian university), coal seam gas (CSG) developments should be stopped for three  major reasons as set out below..

1. Coal seam gas exploitation despoils nature, agriculture and aquifers.

CSG exploitation (and especially fracking) will despoil the natural environment (through pollution and the  scaring of wildlife through massive industrialization of the countryside), pollute  agricultural land (especially with industrial plant and saline waste water) and deplete and pollute aquifers as set out by the Lock The Gate Alliance.

2. A 75% chance of avoiding 2C temperature rise means global zero emissions by 2050.

Data from the Australian Climate Commission's "The Critical Decade" report indicate that Australia must reach zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by mid-2012 if it is not to surpass its "fair share" of the terminal global GHG budget that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2C temperature rise (see Australian Climate Commission, “The Critical Decade. Climate science, risks and responses”, 2011 ).

Indeed, according to data from  the WBGU that advises the German Government on climate change, Australia had ALREADY used up its "fair share" of this terminal, global GHG pollution budget by mid-2011 and is now stealing the entitlement of all other  countries including climate change-threatened  countries like Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This analysis shows that the US and Canada must get pt zero emissions within about 3 years and  most EU countries must stop GHG pollution within 5 to10 years (for the Awful Truth simply Google  “Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissions” ).

Accordingly, the best scientific advice is that we should be stopping existing coal and gas extraction and certainly not be developing new avenues for polluting the atmosphere.

3. Methane leaks and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG.

A coal to gas transition, that is unfortunately favored by the pro-coal, pro-gas  Labor Australian Federal Government, is an environmental and economic  disaster as set out in point #2 above. However, in addition, methane (most of natural gas) is a gas, it leaks significantly and is 105 times worse than  carbon dioxide (CO2) as a GHG on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts considered (see NASA’s Dr Drew T. Shindell et al., “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions”, Science, 30 October 2009: Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 716-718).

Significant methane leakage  means, for example,  that with existing power plants in Victoria, Australia,  at a 3.3% systemic gas leakage (the US average) burning gas for power is roughly as dirty  GHG-wise as burning coal and at 7.9% leakage (as from fracking-derived gas in the US) burning gas for power can be twice as dirty GHG-wise as burning coal (for details and documentation Google "Climate change course summary" and also see Cornell University’s Professor Robert W. Howarth, et al “Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations”: Climatic Change, 2011 ).

What can decent people of the 99% do in the face of the 1% corporate greed threatening Humanity and the Biosphere? Responsible members of the 99% of Humanity must (a) inform everyone they can and (b) urge and apply sanctions and boycotts against all corporations, countries, politicians and people involved in the terracidal gas rush and hence in the worsening Climate Genocide that is set to kill 10 billion non-Europeans this century due to unaddressed man-made climate change.

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