On October 8, 2015, the Cornell University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology released a study entitled “Methane emissions and climatic warming risk from hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development: implications for policy” published in the Dove Press Journal. The study examines the consequences of unconventional natural gas production as to its greenhouse gas emissions footprint.
The study analyzed the impact of differences between methane and carbon dioxide emissions from shale gas development into the atmosphere. Despite emitting less carbon dioxide than oil or coal, the author observed that this cannot compensate for the fact that natural gas production emits a significant level of methane, “a greenhouse gas that on a mass-to-mass basis is > 100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as an agent of global warming for the time when both gases persist in the atmosphere.”
The study opined that switching from coal or oil to natural gas to reduce climate change impacts and global warming should not be perceived “as a bridge fuel that will allow society to continue to use fossil fuels over the coming decades while reducing carbon emissions.”
The author concluded that “[the] understanding of emission sources remains uncertain, with the study of shale gas methane emissions commencing only in the past few years[, and a]dequate regulation to reduce emissions requires better knowledge of sources, as well as better oversight and enforcement.”
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow