Shale gas could help beat global climate change, according to a new UN study that warned greenhouse gas emissions have risen to unprecedented levels.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that global mean temperatures would increase by three to five degrees by the end of the century unless there was a significant overhaul of energy policy.
“Climate policies in line with the two degrees celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC report. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”
The report said that the share of energy from low-carbon sources, including wind and nuclear, would have to be three or four times larger by 2050, to help bring down global emissions to about half of what they are today.
“Greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants,” said the report.
Edenhofer spoke in particular about shale gas, which he said could be “very consistent with low carbon development and decarbonisation”.
The comments will be well received by the UK government, which has strongly encouraged development of the country’s burgeoning shale gas industry, hoping for a US-style energy revolution. But the hydraulic fracturing technique used to extract the resource has attracted controversy, as critics claim it causes earth tremors.
The IPCC study comes ahead of a global climate change treaty that the UN hopes will be signed in Paris next year.