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Environmentalist David Suzuki offers these facts about fracking, busting the myths surrounding natural gas / methane:

1. The rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, increases problems and adds new ones — excessive water use and contamination, earthquakes, destruction of habitat and agricultural lands and methane emissions among them. Oilsands mining, deepsea drilling and fracking are employed because easily accessible supplies are becoming increasingly scarce. The costs and consequences are even higher than with conventional sources and methods.

2. In 2015 and 2016, David Suzuki Foundation researchers joined St. Francis Xavier University’s Flux Lab under the supervision of David Risk, an expert in measurement, detection and repair of fugitive emissions. Using gas-detection instruments mounted on a “sniffer truck,” they travelled more than 8,000 kilometres in northeastern [British Columbia, Canada]. They found methane emissions from B.C.‘s Montney region alone are greater than what the provincial government has estimated for the entire industry! (Montney represents about 55 per cent of B.C.’s oil and gas production.)

3. David Suzuki Foundation senior scientist John Werring followed up on and corroborated that research by measuring point-source methane emissions from more than 170 oil and gas sites. The research, available in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found Montney operations leak and intentionally release more than 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air annually — equivalent to burning more than 4.5 million tonnes of coal or putting more than two million cars on the road. Half of all well and processing sites in the region are releasing methane. This research shows that the oil and gas sector is the largest source of climate pollution in B.C., surpassing commercial transportation — and it contradicts claims that natural gas or LNG is a clean fuel or that it’s useful to help us transition from other fossil fuels.

4. Of the many problems with the industry, methane emissions from fracked and conventional operations are among the most serious. Methane is at least 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas over the short term. Researchers estimate it’s responsible for 25 per cent of already observed climatic changes. One difference between methane and CO2: Methane remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time — around a decade, compared to many decades or centuries for CO2.

Methane’s relatively short lifespan means reducing the amount entering the atmosphere will have major and rapid results. Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to address climate change. The technology to do so already exists. It’s absurd that the industry is leaking the very resource it wants to sell.

“Our political representatives face many competing interests and priorities,” says Suzuki, who is pushing for “a stand-alone environmental bill of rights to put human and environmental health at the centre of decision-making and ensure consistency and coherence between different environmental laws.” After he achieves that, Suzuki aims to get a healthy environment included in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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