Drop support for fracking to protect climate, urge academics

pnr 180828 fence slider

Fencing outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site, 18 August 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

Twenty-nine academics have called on governments and scientists to withdraw their support for fracking because of its climate change impacts.

Writing to this morning’s Times newspaper, they say climate change is already causing extreme weather events and driving accelerated melting of ice sheets and glaciers.

The letter says a major cause is burning fossil fuels and rising methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction, particularly fracking.

This coincides with what the signatories say is a “new era of cheap, clean renewable energy and storage”.

190227 The Times

Letter to The Times newspaper, 27 February 2019

Effect of fracking on climate change, The Times, 27 February 2019 (pdf)

The letter asks:

“Is it not time that our leaders and scientific community withdrew their support for fracking and engaged in the challenge of transforming our society to meet this existential challenge?”

190217 signatories

Signatories of the letter to The Times, 27 February 2019

The signatories include 12 professors attached to universities in the UK, Australia and the UK.

Some are well-known critics of fracking, including Emeritus Professor David Smythe, of Glasgow University, Professor Robert Howarth, of Cornell University and Emeritus Professor Nick Cowern, of Newcastle University.

The list also includes social entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett, who runs a solar energy company, and the environmentalist, Sir Jonathan Porritt.

Today’s letter has been supported by the campaign network, Frack Free United. It said the UK government’s backing for fracking would “only serve to increase dangerous climate-changing emissions.

A spokesperson said:

“The global climate change breakdown we currently face requires urgent action and a need to divest from fossil fuels. Fracking is not a ‘bridge’ to a carbon-neutral future: it is yet another fossil fuel cheque that our climate cannot afford to cash. We are in a climate crisis and the UK government should declare it as one.”

Earlier this month, a group of geoscientists, many with links to the oil and gas industry joined calls for a review of the rules on fracking-induced seismicity.

117 replies »

  1. I wish it were possible to append something to a statement in here.. The problem with these people they are too young to really experience pollution which ran from the 1700.s up to the 1950-60s . Every house ion every street belched smoke from America through Europe, Russia and on into Asia . Great columns of smoke rose from the chimneys and the air above the towns was acrid and there was a smokey haze over everything. The problem was there was not the research then and it was only measured in how many people pollution had killed this year ! ( I seen ti recall that for London in the early 50s some 3000 people died in a three day smog, they didn’t bother to count them in Birmingham and Manchester or Paris, or Berlin or New York or Vladivostok . We have made enormous strides in reducing pollution but if you wonder what it was really like then look at the still blackened houses near railway stations and despite near 60 years of rains that should have washed it off, it is still there because it was that thick . It is a pity that they have no provision for attachments on this site but I have some pictures that would make your blood curdle

    • Walker – BTW – I posted a comment to the letter below but will repeat it – I’ve paraphrased the first sentence.

      “The letter does an excellent job in highlighting the tactics of the anti’s. It seems to be basically arguing that Inos, Cuadrilla and the 48 who argued for reviewing the TLS shouldn’t have done so because of climate change issues. This is a pathetic argument to make – if fracking should be banned due to climate change then that should be the argument. Trying to get it banned under a totally false premise is simply dishonest. Many of us have realized that these are the tactics being used but it’s good to have in print.

      It’s also wrong to say that methane emissions are rising because of fracking. The fact is that methane emissions associated with natural gas production have been going down over the last 30 years whereas methane emissions from coal production have been rising (see supplementary data in https://www.nature.com/articles/nature19797). If fracking were “particularly” to blame as suggested by the letter then the opposite trend would be expected. It’s also noteworthy that there has been a more or less continuous rise on methane emissions for the last 200 years apart from one plateau between 1999 and 2006, which again isn’t consistent with hydraulic fracturing being “particularly” responsible.”

        • jacjthelad – if you’ve every played you will know that three of a kind beats two of a kind. You posting a link to some irrelevant website and comparing it to the link that I posted to Nature (one of the top academic journals in the world with the strictest acceptance level) is a bit like trying to beat a royal flush with a pair of 2’s.

      • SIMON,

        It may be irrelevant to you and other Shale investors , what experts from NASA and other world leading scientists are saying .

        But the facts are , Fracking greatly fuels climate change .

        • Jack, you don’t seem to have had the education to realise the difference between an academic paper (like I posted) and an article that comments on the academic article (like you posted). I’ve read and fully understand all of the NASA publications and the Nature paper that I posted actually takes into account the work done by NASA.

          You also don’t seem to have the ability to read what others write. So I’ll try to express it in really simple terms. I wasn’t arguing about whether or not use of fossil fuels from fracking contributed to climate change. I was simply making the point that increases in methane emissions from natural gas production have been decreasing whereas those from coal production are increasing. Overall, this is opposite to what would be expected if fracking was responsible for the renewed increase in methane emissions that has occurred since the well documented hiatus that occurred between 1999 and 2007. Is that simple enough for you?

          • Sorry SIMON,

            OR is it Professor SIMON MAYNARD ????? HA,HA

            Please keep the, quote, “really simple ” things for your own bedtime reading .

            I know I’m bang on target when a Pro-Fracker starts spitting out the dummy …..

            Truth hurts you does it ??????

            • Jack, so are you going to produce any evidence to back up your BS or are you just going to continue to post opinion pieces as per usual?

              • SIMON ,

                I will continue to correct you when you make errors .

                I know you will appreciate this link. There is no need to publicly thank me on this forum .

                I’m only try to help you understand , please don’t get bitter and angry.

                FROM ….. NASA

                NASA Confirms Methane Spike Is Tied to Oil and Gas.


                Did you notice the words ” Oil and Gas ” .?????? ………. It’s wrong to try and blame the spike in emissions as a result of coal whilst trying to champion natural gas production .

                • Jack – what do you not understand about opinion pieces being valueless – let me know when you find a peer reviewed paper that presents the evidence so that I can appraise it and compare it to other papers that present evidence.

                • AS you will note SIMON,

                  The NASA study squarely blames the spike in Methane emissions on Coal , Gas and Oil.

                  The burning of ALL three need to be drastically cut, RIGHT NOW .

                  NASA words, not mine .

                • Ok SIMON ,

                  Let’s let the people on this forum make up their own minds

                  The choice is yours Ladies and Gentlemen, please read the above posts. Do you believe what SIMON has said to be true , or what the world’s leading scientists at NASA are saying ?????

                  The choice is yours .

                • Jack, to let people decide you need to actually post what the scientists from NASA have actually written and not some ones opinion about what they wrote – do you actually understand the difference?

                  I’ve posted a very clear link to a paper in what is arguably the best scientific journal in the world. You have yet to post anything other than opinion pieces that don’t have data.

                • Simon – you are totally wasting your time – he hasn’t a clue what you are getting at. It’s probably not obvious what a peer reviewed paper unless you have a University level education.

                • JUDITH ,

                  I know the NASA report will be a bitter blow to you and that your usual response when presented with such damming evidence against the Oil and Gas industry is to try and discredit the forum member making the post.

                  This approach does give us all great amusement and laughter , it does though show how well you have been cornered.

                  NOW JUDITH , let’s get back to business, let’s see you try and discredit the NASA report …

                  Also please don’t forget to supply, verifiable evidence in the form of LINKS .

                • Jack, I agree with Simon – I think you need to provide a link to the actual report and/or paper before any of us can assess it.

                • JUDITH and SIMON , if you two ordinary folk want to ask the world’s leading scientists for an in-depth report on their findings , here is their contact address and phone number.

                  NASA Headquarters
                  300 E. Street SW, Suite 5R30
                  Washington, DC 20546
                  (202) 358-0001 (Office)
                  (202) 358-4338 (Fax)

                  For us other mere mortals , we will believe what is being said on NASA’s own webpage.

                  My LINKS to NASA’s findings on climate change and how the Oil and Gas industry plays a BIG part in that problem have already been supplied above …

                • OK – Jack – i’ll take it that you haven’t read the report or that you are incapable of finding it. Come back and join the debate when you’ve acquired an education

                • Now, Now SIMON,

                  If you have nothing to challenge my comments with, don’t take it to badly..

                  Remember , becoming all bitter , angry and personal will only be a source of great amusement to the more educated, mature members who take this forum more seriously. .

                • Simon – what did I tell you! He’s either totally ignorant or just trying to waste people time. I’m certainly not going to engage with someone who doesn’t know the difference better a peer reviewed paper with evidence and an opinion piece on a website.

                • It is very interesting to watch these interactions….a new poster{?} appears and says the same ole same ole…and Judith(?) thinks that this forum is for cohesive arguments, but puts forward none; an observation in psychological profiling me thinks…….

                  By the way Jono; I don’t think that the ‘PR team’ have a ‘Frequent Answer’ on their sheet for fossil fuel induced climate change, hence the elevated reactions.

                • Sherwulfe- I guess it’s littlw surprise I say similar things to Judith given that she was my PhD supervisor and spent 4 years drumming into me the importance of evidence-based science and critically appraising evidence!

              • LETS ALL LAUGH ,

                JUDITH is trying to play the silly diversionary game again . Look how she try’s to discredit the forum member who put forward the link , rather than trying to discredit the damming information put forward against the Oil and Gas industry by NASA.

                Is thatt the best you can do JUDITH ???????? LET’S all laugh and enjoy this moment .

                I have as you will all note, shown the evidence from NASA regarding how serious we should now be taking Climate Change and the immediate need to STOP burning fossil fuels and above is JUDITH’S response, laughable and predictable

                Remember Ladies and Gentlemen, JUDITH will never back up anything she says with any evidence that you can click on to ( LINK ). Therefore it should be noted that her views are only her own opinions.

                It may be hard for a layperson like yourself to understand JUDITH, but believe or not , the evidence I put forward in my above links comes from the world’s leading scientists at NASA

                • Humans should not have ‘ 4 years drumming into me’ from anyone – you should think for yourself!

  2. The conflation of climate change and fracking is astounding. This isn’t a science led letter but an ideological one. Why couldn’t they have simply said we’re ideologically opposed to fracking?

    That’s all the letter says…we’re opposed to fracking but they haven’t given a substantive reason why anyone else should share their view.

    Unlike the previous letter in the Times by almost 50 scientists, this one plays upon the unrelated authority offered by their titles.

    • Jim, it is indeed an interesting contrast. At least most of those who suggested it might be prudent to have a review of the TLS had some knowledge of the subject. The ones who signed the letter conflating seismicity and climate change actually don’t know very much about the latter. Also the fact that they seem to emphasize fracking as a major contributor to methane emissions indicates that they are shooting from the hip without understanding the evidence. Interesting that Howarth signed the letter – most people who working in this area do not accept the conclusions of his papers – so much so that some have suggested that he is pro-coal!

      • A reminder of what Professor Styles of the BGS and one of the authors of the Preese Hall review and recommendation report states,

        “The 0.5 limit isn’t where anyone believes there will be damage or even disturbance.

        “It is the point where we think we have a transition between fracking-related micro-earthquakes and the onset of stimulation of natural fractures which can move and generate seismic events which may be much larger depending on the scale of the fault and the associated geology.”

        As the Bowland shale has complex geology and is heavily faulted it is logical to remove any possible seismic triggers. A mix of science, proven fact, precaution and common sense.

        • JP – I’ve been in e-mail contact with several of the authors or the letter to the Times suggesting that the TLS system should be reviewed. They didn’t go into details regarding why they wanted the review in the letter because it would have not been understood by the general public or the minister, as this will probably not be understood by you. However, one of the authors wrote back to me with the comment that “I simply don’t accept that a Ml 0.5 tremor limit has anything to do with a transition from type I to type II/III faulting (JP – for you that translates as tension fractures to shear faulting). Indeed, since the report has written by Green, Styles and Baptie there has been new data available suggesting that tremors in the area on which they based their assessment are in fact strike slip faults and not tension fractures as was presumed”

          Several of the signatories have also confirmed to me that Prof. Styles was supportive of the review. Dr Baptie has already been in the press as saying that a review should take place and the other co-author is not allowed to officially comment on the subject due to his change in job.

          So it seems like the only people who are objecting are those against fracking and they are doing so not because they worry about earthquake risk but because they see it as the best way to limit fracking in the UK. In other words, they are showing the typical dishonesty that the green movement continual shows when if comes to fracking.

          • ‘not because they worry about earthquake risk’

            Ridiculous nonsense as usual and an irrelevant reference to the green movement.

            The 3 main bodies who are concerned about earthquakes from fracking in the UK are,

            The oil and gas Authority

            “There are no plans to review the limit under the traffic light system.”

            And the BEIS,

            “We set these regulations in consultation with industry and we have no plans to review them.”


            And a reminder of who shut down fracking operations after the Preese hall earthquakes,

            “In May 2011 fracking operations were suspended by the DECC”

            Keep howling in the wilderness by all means. The people who you thought were going to help you most are not listening.

            This common sense factual information may be difficult for some to understand due to the simplistic level at which it is pitched.

            • JP – keep up to date – Claire Perry responded to a question recently with the reply that she wanted to leave the TLS up to the scientists. Most people realize that was political speak for the fact the OGA will review the TLS. Anyhow, when this happens in a few weeks time then you can judge who was listening 🙂 🙂

  3. and of course the 2018 CCC report to Parliament shows that gas is a big part of the UK reduction in power emissions. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-uk-emissions-2018-progress-report-to-parliament/

    and the National Grid also see a big role for gas. http://fes.nationalgrid.com/fes-document/

    Seeing as shale gas has a very low emissions profile (its just ‘gas’ according to the CCC) and we are going to be using it, its a no brainer to use shale.

    • Maximising our UK renewable potential would be the most logical solution to combat climate change. This Government chooses not to do this and even discourages onshore wind which is the cheapest form of UK energy when best sited.
      We will not be using UK shale in the UK. It is to dirty and expensive and in case you have only just joined the debate no commercially viable UK shale gas has been produced since planning applications were passed unopposed in 2010.

    • Unless one gets much of their funding, directly or indirectly, from alternatives, Ken. Then, something else takes over from the brain.

      Many a bottle of Shiraz with my ex Scientific Director showed if he could find a tenuous link between climate change and product research, he could obtain much of his research funding from the EU. He spent much of his time attempting to do so, and stated he needed to as any science graduates to work on the research would be very expensive because they had the lure of climate change work elsewhere with big budgets, high salaries and expenses funded trips to Rio!

  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/27/extinction-rebellion-activists-arrested-outside-london-oil-conference

    A Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “Police were called to reports of a protest at a hotel on Hamilton Place, W1. Officers attended and discovered a number of people had glued themselves to windows. Nine people have been arrested on suspicion of offences including aggravated trespass and criminal damage.”

    More criminal records……looks like justice may be a bit tougher in London.

    • The piece refers to arrests “on suspicion of” – it does not refer to actual charges. And of course, no cases have yet gone to court, so talk of criminal records is premature.

  5. Perhaps they should look at LNG instead?


    “Emissions for the year to September 2018 went up 0.9% on the previous year, according to the latest inventory, primarily due to a 19.7% increase in LNG exports, but there were also increases in stationary energy, transport, fugitives, industrial processes and waste sectors.

    The increased pollution from stationary energy reflects production growth in the mining sector, in steel and aluminium. The increase in LNG production has driven a 7.3% increase in fugitive emissions over the year to September 2018.”

    • Fascinating isn’t it, these comments reflect an obvious and understandable bias in the anti anti camp, that their favoured letter regarding the attempted massaging of the TLS threshold, is in some way any different to this letter that relates fracking to increasing climate change. They are in fact no different and must be treated equally.

      The attempt at reframing of the TLS threshold to above 0.5 on the Richter scale saying that earthquakes are insignificant, but clearly contrary to recent evidence, is just the same level of opinion, possible influentially triggered opinion at that.
      So any argument to denigrate these scientists suggestion that fracking will exacerbate the climate change fluctuations, can equally be used against the 48 + 2.5 scientists opinion that increasing the TLS threshold will have no significant increase in earthquakes.

      The unsubstantiated differentiation of opinion that is displayed here to somehow denigrate one letter, whilst supporting the other is therefore self defeating.

      The same arguments can be used for or against either letter.

      So where does that leave us?

      That is really very simple.

      This government must immediately commission a fully independent emergency climate change department commission and member of parliament representative and investigative team. They would preferably be sourced from outside of government and the fossil fuel industry. Preferably to appoint a fully independent fully funded and fully staffed independent department for renewable energy research and investment and develop appropriate regulatory powers and new laws through parliament and to develop a network of expertise to address the various issues that arise through science and international agreement as they become more apparent.

      Clearly to merely tag Claire Perry with a cut and paste on climate change title, when she has an entirely opposing remit to support and primarily enable fossil fuels exploitation and expansion above renewable energy resources is simply incompatible and potentially compromised in scope and operation.
      And that must be done now, not tomorrow, not next year, not some time in 2050 or after, it is already getting far too late to prevaricate and delay any longer.

      We owe that to our children and future generations, because they will be the people who will have to pick up the consequences of our dismal failure to act on our and their behalf.

      • JP – but we don’t – but never let the truth get in the way of a good narrative. What ever happens the North Sea now produces far less gas than is consumed in the UK – or are you denying that also??

  6. Really excellent factually informative posts on this subject.

    Particularly enjoyed the Jack and Simon poker game. Simon winning with facts. Such a shame it couldn’t be a full house, ie everyone wins especially the U.K…

  7. Cuadrilla resources issued this statement this Morning…

    Apologies if you’re thinking about your elevenses but this needs to be said… Lancashire Police are investigating this morning after the team arrived on site to find what appears to be human or animal faeces smeared across fences, locks and other materials in the entrance. Lancashire County Council and Fylde Borough Council have been notified due to the health and safety risk this poses to people working in and around the area.

    I think we can all agree this is disgusting. For whoever did it, we have one message: if you can’t find a coherent way to make your point you’ve lost the argument. This type of tactic literally stinks.

  8. You wonder where the concern for wheel washing sits with that behaviour Kisheny.

    Of course, there is also the lady charged with assault of a worker from the emergency services yet to be decided at court.

    Can’t see many applications for injunctions being rejected.

  9. ‘A Red Screaming Alarm Bell’ to Banish Fossil Fuels: NASA Confirms Last Five Years Hottest on Record
    “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It’s here. It’s now.”


    “NASA scientists confirmed in a report Wednesday that 2018 was one of the hottest years on record, continuing what the New York Times called “an unmistakable warming trend.” February 06, 2019

    Last year was the fourth-warmest on record since scientists began recording such data 140 years ago, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). This finding makes the last five years the five hottest years ever, scientists said, slapping down any question that the planet is growing warmer.

    “2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS director Gavin Schmidt in a statement.

    “The five warmest years have, in fact, been the last five years,” he told the Times. “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It’s here. It’s now.”

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