By Travis Fain
A climate scientist at Duke University, in a letter backed by two dozen former officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, called Thursday for a halt to natural gas development in North Carolina.
Drew Shindell, an earth sciences professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment, said Gov. Roy Cooper should push back on Duke Energy’s plans to build multiple new natural gas plants in the state, essentially asking the governor to back a moratorium in the fight against climate change.
“The time is now to stop building more fossil fuel construction,” Shindell, who is part of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said on a conference call with reporters.
The press conference was arranged by NC WARN, a climate activism group that has opposed Duke Energy’s expansion plans for years. Shindell keyed not just on carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas responsible for rising average temperatures but on its less-covered cousin: methane.
Natural gas is methane, and when it leaks unburned into the atmosphere, it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, trapping heat dozens of times more effectively. Methane has increased in the atmosphere as a fracking boom produced more natural gas, and Shindell said in his letter that, if as little as 1 to 3 percent is released as the gas is mined and shipped, “natural gas can be worse (potentially much worse) for the climate than coal.”