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Please Tell the People: Global Heat Wave Continues in 2017; Methane from Fracking is Major Cause – Note to News Editors from NC WARN

Duke Energy goes on record arguing against capture of methane venting and leaking all the way from fracking wells to power plants

The global heating record that jumped in 2014 and worsened in each of the next two years has continued through April of 2017, to the surprise of climate scientists.

  • Last month was the second hottest April on record for global average temperature, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • So far, 2017 is only slightly behind 2016 as all-time hottest year worldwide. This is a surprise because the end of a large El Nino event in mid-2016 was expected to relax the global heat wave a little.  Scientists say El Nino actually contributed only a modest amount to overall warming.
  • Global average temperatures from 2014 through April 2017 are much higher than any previous year.
  • Top climatologist James Hansen documents that the global greenhouse gas problem has increased 20 percent in the past decade “mainly due to the resurging growth of atmospheric methane.”

This ongoing heat wave supports the case made by Cornell scientists and others who argue that methane emissions from the US fracking boom are a key factor in the unexpected rate of heating since 2014.  That fracking boom is being driven by Duke Energy and other utilities burning more and more shale gas.

As Cornell’s Dr. Robert Howarth says, curbing the fracked gas that’s being vented and leaked, unburned, into the air is essential to averting runaway climate change.  That’s because methane is 100 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping Earth’s heat, so the climate responds quickly to methane: soaring emissions in recent years have led to soaring heat records.


Meanwhile, Duke Energy was finally put on record recently – by WUNC radio – opposing regulations that would require the capture of methane spewing into the air all along the fracked gas supply route.  The nation’s largest carbon-polluting utility is trying to build up to 20 fracked gas-fired power plants in the Carolinas alone, plus the $5.6 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline to supply those plants with fracked gas.  Thus Duke Energy is responsible for much of the methane emissions that are now driving the climate crisis.

NC WARN urges reporters and editors at all media outlets:

  • Tell the public about the fracking-climate-utility connection.
  • Don’t let Duke Energy and other utilities keep claiming natural gas is clean. For the climate, it’s much worse even than coal because of the methane venting and leaking from well to power plant.
  • Don’t let Duke keep claiming its greenhouse gas emissions are down because it’s burning less coal. It may be reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but it’s creating an even greater harm by unleashing super-potent methane from the fracked gas supply chain and pretending that doesn’t count.

Some researchers believe natural sources – for example, wetlands – are the main cause of the rapid methane build-up in the atmosphere.  But the wetlands apparently are releasing more methane due to global warming itself.  In any case, the dispute about the primary source becomes moot the longer the rapid heating continues.  We can’t slow methane released from natural sources in any meaningful timeframe, but curbing the venting and leakage from gas and power infrastructure is both very doable and cost-effective.

All this is why the NC NAACP, NC WARN and allies are calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to ban the import and usage of fracked gas in North Carolina.

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