With all the recent talk of California's Porter Ranch, methane leaks have become a hot topic. When a problem this big arises out of thin air (pun intended), public health and environmental officials must work hand-in-hand with one another to address it. In fact, when it comes to environmental disasters like Porter Ranch, there's often no clear difference between an environmentalist and a public health professional. This is why schools of public health are increasingly including "environmental health" concentrations. Human contributions of carbon dioxide, which cause climate change, also fall under this category. And, as the Independent notes below, methane (released during the fracking process) is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing global warming. If you haven't already, it's time that you add fracking to your list of public health concerns. It's also time to act.
By Geoffrey Lean I March 5, 2016
Startling increases in one of the main pollutants that cause global warming have been unexpectedly discovered over the United States – and the main suspect is the country’s booming fracking industry.
New Harvard University research, drawing on satellite measurements, concludes that US emissions of methane – a much more powerful warming gas than carbon dioxide – have “increased by more than 30 per cent over the past decade”.
The researchers say they “cannot readily attribute” the rise to any particular source but point out that US production of shale gas increased nine times during the same period, while other studies show that many fracking operations are emitting much more methane than has been officially recognised.
If the extraction process proves to be the culprit, it will show that exploiting and burning shale gas has been much more potent in global warming even than using coal, severely undermining energy and climate-change strategies. Both the British and US governments have been banking on shale gas as a relatively clean fuel that would act as a “bridge” to the low carbon economy needed in the next few decades if the world is not to heat up uncontrollably.
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