ON THE ISLAND OF IRELAND
What connects melting ice, short-lived pollutants and fracking? Methane.
“Seeping methane could impact on climate change” (May 23rd). ”President Obama, Other G8 Leaders Commit to Cutting Short-Lived Climate Pollutants,” including methane (News section on May 25th). How do these recent News items in irish environment raise serious questions about the impacts from fracking on the island of Ireland?
Methane is a major constituent of natural gas and there are risks that methane can be released into the atmosphere during fracking operations, including through leaks in well casings and storage of flowback liquids on the surface, as well as during consumption of the natural gas, a fossil fuel. The recent news items indicate that methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) with high Global Warming Potential (see iePEDIA section of irish environment), that the levels of methane in the atmosphere will rise substantially if Arctic ice continues to melt, and, in a note of hope, the world leaders are joining the United Nations and a newly formed group, Climate and Clean Air Coalition for Reducing Short Lived Climate Pollutants, in committing to reduce methane emissions and other short -lived climate pollutants, like black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons. The plan is to manage these short-lived pollutants as a way to gain some reduction in GHGs while efforts continue on working out ways of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which last for a long time in the atmosphere.
Any fracking anywhere has the potential to aggravate the methane problem. That problem is seriously aggravated by plans to double the level of beef exports in the Republic of Ireland’s Harvest 2020 strategy. The agricultural sector in the RoI accounts for about 29% of total GHG emissions (mostly from methane), and in Northern Ireland about 22% of GHG emissions.
Do we substantially increase methane emissions from cows and forget fracking? Forget more cows and embrace fracking? Or just take all the money that some can earn from expanded agriculture and fracking and say the hell with the planet. Isn’t this last choice pretty much what happened as the Celtic Tiger clawed its way across the Irish landscape.
See, also, “New York Plans to Frack, The Public Reacts: Implications for Fracking on the Island of Ireland,” and “Fracking in New York: accidents, spills, releases, ETC,” in the Reports section of irish environment. Also, see Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) at www.unep.org/ccac/