Beauchamp: How fracking contributes to climate change

A global effort to demand action.

Manhattan will host the People’s Climate March on Sunday — a global effort to demand action to confront climate change. It is fitting that it will happen in New York, a state that understands the threats of climate change better than most.

Just a couple years removed from Superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers know we’re seeing the effects of climate disruption. Weeks without electricity. Homes flooded or washed away. Lives lost. Yet an overwhelming majority of scientists and experts insist that without immediate action the worst is yet to come.

While climate marchers will focus on President Barack Obama and the international community, there is also a hometown leader who can stem climate change. It’s our own Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has yet to decide whether to allow the controversial gas drilling method known as fracking in the Empire State. He says he’s awaiting results of an ongoing health study before deciding.

Evidence shows that fracking contributes to global warming. If he banned the process, Cuomo would become a national leader on climate change, and he’d send a message that a future free of polluting fossil fuels can begin now. But he has delayed a decision on fracking — the state’s moratorium is in its seventh year.

Natural gas has been seen by some as a “bridge fuel” that might transition our society away from antiquated habits, but science confirms otherwise. A Cornell University study shows fracking is as harmful to our climate as burning coal. Analysis from the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identifies two reasons for this. First, methane, the main component of fracked gas, is 87 times stronger in trapping greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Second, underestimated amounts of methane leak into the atmosphere through fracking — from drilling, to gas compression and storage, to pipeline transport, to delivery.

We cannot dodge the climate crisis by swapping one dirty fossil fuel for another. We must reject fracking and turn toward clean, renewable energy sources. We already have the technology, but lack the political will.

This is where Cuomo comes in: He says he “will let the science decide.”

Governor, the science is in, and it isn’t pretty.

Alex Beauchamp is the northeast region director at Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.