Jeremy Moss, Alicia Coram & Grant Blashki; November 2013
An analysis of the impacts of unconventional gas on health and climate.
- Unconventional gas—CSG, shale gas and tight gas—is slated to play a major role in the expansion of Australia’s gas industry, with the majority of future production to be exported. This expansion will be associated with climate and health effects that need careful consideration.
- There is substantial uncertainty over health impacts, with a noted lack of information, especially in relation to the nascent Australian shale gas industry.
- While the risk of water contamination by fracturing fluids cannot be dismissed, risks from wastewater are more concerning. Wastewater contains both fracturing fluids and naturally occurring contaminants, with many reported spills and accidents here and overseas.
- Risk pathways from air pollution, water use, soil degradation, and social impacts also exist. Land and water use are especially important pathways in Australia, with resource conflict already evident, and resources likely to be compromised for future generations.
- The proposed expansion of the industry will be responsible for substantial levels of GHG emissions, especially in comparison to viable alternatives.
- Uncertainty over the levels and impact of fugitive emissions make it unclear whether unconventional gas offers any climate benefits over coal, particularly given the climate impacts of methane are concentrated in a 20-year period—a critical time frame for serious effects of global warming.
- Australia arguably has a moral burden from the emissions caused by exported gas. Unconventional gas is also likely to displace renewables both in Australia and in export markets.
- The current state of knowledge does not offer reason for endorsing unconventional gas from the perspective of the environment or human health
- The evidence indicates a better path is a reduction in the use of such potentially harmful technologies and materials in favour of the demonstrably less harmful alternatives that are available.