LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – Thirty of Australia’s most respected scientists and energy experts have signed an open letter, published by the Australia Institute today, calling on the Northern Territory and Federal Governments not to allow fracking in the Territory to proceed under any circumstances.
The Fracking Inquiry found that a single gas field would increase Australia’s emissions by 5%. The scientists note that this “completely incompatible with Australia’s carbon budget and our commitments under the Paris agreement”.
The scientists, including several of Australia’s most respected climate scientists, note that the Northern Territory is in a region likely to experience the most severe impacts of global warming. This includes a dramatic increase in extremely hot days, with days over 35 degrees Celsius in Darwin projected to increase from 11 per year now to up to 308 by 2070.
The Fracking Inquiry also found a scenario submitted by the NT Government would have emissions equivalent to 18% of Australia’s emissions every year.
Australia Institute analysis found that if all NT shale gas was exploited, it could be the equivalent of up to 60 times Australia’s current annual emissions or building 130 coal power plants and operating them for 40 years.
“This gas development is incompatible with Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the Paris climate agreement. It should not go ahead under any circumstances,” says ANU climate scientist and signatory to the open letter, Will Steffen.
“Climate change already poses serious risks for the Northern Territory, and these will escalate unless greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly reduced. Extremely hot days – those over 35°C – are expected to increase dramatically.
“Combined with high humidity, such extreme heat will make just being outside not only uncomfortable, but dangerous to health, for a large proportion of the year in many areas, including Darwin.
“Most fossil fuel reserves simply cannot be burned if we want places like the Northern Territory to remain habitable. Opening up vast new fossil fuel developments is dangerous, irresponsible and unnecessary.
“It would be a tragic irony to have massive amounts of gas from the NT fueling heatwaves destroying everything we love about the NT to the point of making it virtually uninhabitable,” says Mark Ogge, principal advisor at The Australia Institute.
“A single shale gas field would triple the Northern Territories emissions. Territorians working hard to reduce their emissions would wonder why they are bothering.
“If each new shale gas field increases Australia’s emissions by 5%, other industries like farming and tourism will have to reduce more so we can still meet our Paris commitments.”
The Australia Institute, Canberra, public policy think tank established in 1994.
Matthew Doman, of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, provided the following reply:-
Developing gas fields in the Territory could play a significant role in reducing our carbon footprint.
Natural gas has a critical role in enabling the greater integration of renewables into our energy mix.
With the majority of Australia’s electricity coming from coal, greater use of gas-fired power can contribute to a reduction in near-term emissions.
Every analysis by credible experts shows that natural gas is essential to delivering reliable, cleaner energy over the next 20 years.
Experience in countries such as the US shows that the most significant opportunity available today to curb emissions is replacing coal-fired power with gas-fired generation. It is a shift which can cut emissions by 50% or more, without jeopardising energy security.
The reality is we cannot move to total reliance on renewable any time soon, and there’s an ongoing need for gas.
It is also important to remember that only around 40% of the gas used in Australia goes to power generation. The rest is used for cooking, heating and to sustain our manufacturing industries.
We need practical solutions, not ideological solutions.
The use of renewable energy is increasing, but the reality is we will use very substantial amounts of gas for decades to come, and so it is reckless to turn our back on new supplies – especially when the Territory could gain significant economic and social benefits developing its resources.
It is also notable that the open letter is wrong in claiming the NT Government submitted a scenario of shale gas production in the NT resulting in lifecycle emissions equal to 18% of Australia’s current greenhouse gas emissions.
As per Table 9.4 of the Inquiry Draft Final Report, the panel has calculated that this scenario (3,400 TJ/d) would be 6.6% proportion of Australia’s emissions for 2015.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR