Carbon Emissions & Climate Implications

One of the major uncertainties around fracking is the implications of carbon abatement policies and moves to manage climate change impacts1. As mentioned below Offset requirements could impact significantly on costs for companies involved in fracking.  Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – 86 times more powerful when considered over a 20-year timeframe and 34 times more over a 100-year timeframe. The near-term consequences of methane emissions are very important in the context of the risks of climate tipping points and near-term temperature thresholds over the coming two decades. 

  • Fracking has been shown to be much more a source of methane pollution than previously thought
  • The implications of Global heating are more severe than previously predicted
  • Significant action on climate change means gas is not a transition fuel
  • Renewables are displacing fossil fuels much faster than predicted
  • Business and investment are moving away from fossil fuels because of the climate risks

Recent research has shown that Fracking is much more polluting than previously thought.  Most of this research has been published after the Pepper Inquiry and raises major concerns about the safety and economics of fracking.

Research by Howarth shows huge emissions from Fracking and show its impacts on global heating are much worse than previously thought.

The Offsets that would be required if Fracking were to proceed would cost Billions of dollars.

The costs of offsets mean fracking is not viable and is a threat to future generations who would have to repay the debt and manage the impacts of climate change.

The Gunner Government has suggested it may be able to purchase ‘offsets’ - agreements with other industries and jurisdictions to wind down emissions in order for NT pollution to increase - in an effort to mitigate the risk, however there is no framework in place for this to occur and the scale of emissions offsets required make such a program an unviable proposition.

Leading climate scientists have said in response:

We are at a point now where we simply have to get emissions down right across the economy, and across the world, and we can't avoid emission reductions by "offsetting" them. Offsets would mean someone else needs to do the job we should be doing, or - worse yet - we will try to use land carbon (growing forests) to "offset" fossil fuel emissions. This is scientifically invalid. Plus, there would be a lot of arguing and fightback if some other sectors in the economy were asked to reduce its emissions further (no doubt at significant cost to them) so the NT could increase its emissions because of fracking.

As the Northern Territory and Federal Governments move towards strictly enforceable emissions reductions commitments new fracking gasfields are incompatible with our obligations to meet these targets.

Recently the EU announced major changes in energy policy relating to gas when they announced it will not be considered a transition fuel in their moves towards 2050 policy settings which will further reduce the viability of unconventional gas projects as prices reduce

The climate crisis is getting more serious and the latest IPCC report (Oct 2018) highlights the need for urgent and increased action to reduce Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4) levels in our atmosphere. It also shows that current actions are not adequate.  Alarmingly the report confirms that we are already at 1.0 degree of warming and there is concern that the world will fail to meet the 1.5 degree above pre-industrial levels target by a wide margin.

A1. Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming5 above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach  1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (IPCC report Oct 2018)


The implications of 1.5 degrees of warming are alarming with 70-90% loss of coral reef systems and unknown implications for mangrove systems around the NT caused at these levels. Again, we have little to no science to guide this but we have already seen significant mangroves die off around the Gulf of Carpentaria and coral bleaching. Community feedback clearly shows that opening new gasfields through onshore fracking is not possible if Australia is to make serious steps to reduce carbon. The issue is about the amount of CO2 (equivalent) in our atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if the carbon is from coal or other fossil fuels it is still a problem.

The Pepper Inquiry report is quite explicit in its analysis that Territorians do accept fracking as an option.  This is especially true of indigenous groups where there is great concern about the impacts of fracking on water and cultural aspects of life. We want serious action on climate change and opening new fracking gasfields is contradictory to reducing climate change.

"For a significant majority of the people participating… the overwhelming consensus was that hydraulic fracturing for onshore shale gas in the NT is not safe, is not trusted and is not wanted.” (Pepper Inquiry)


Neither the fracking industry nor the government have engaged in appropriate consultation with indigenous groups and so there has not been prior and informed consent given by indigenous groups for the exploration drilling let alone for fracking. Everyday more information about problems with fracking are adding to these concerns.

Fracking poses an unacceptable risk because of the CO2e it will emit. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane, a greenhouse gas with 86 times the global warming effect of CO2 over a 20- year period.1

Analysis by energy engineer Tim Forcey found that the climate pollution from NT unconventional shale developments are 4-7 times greater than the Adani mine.[1] The Australia Institute found the impact would be approximate to building 50 new coal fired power stations in Australia and operating them for 40 years.2  The reserve estimates have been more than doubled since these calculations.


No one would accept 50 new coal fired stations so why are we pretending it is OK to use Gas?  We need to move beyond fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

1 Climate Council (2017), ‘Pollution and Price: The Cost of Investing in Gas’, p. 8

2 The Australia Institute, 2018, 1000 MW coal plant emissions intensity 1t/Mwh, operating 75% capacity.

1 IPCC report Summary for Policy Makers October 2018