Experts Call for WA Fracking Ban

(Green Left Weekly, 2016)

Over 50 scientists and experts have published an open letter urging the Western Australian Government to permanently ban fracking in the state.

The letter’s signatories include former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley AC, former Premier of WA Carmen Lawrence, WA’s 2018 Scientist of the Year Professor Peter Newman AO, and former Chairman of the Australian Coal Association and Shell executive Ian Dunlop. Some of Australia’s leading climate scientists have also put their seal of approval on the letter, including Professor Graeme Pearman, Professor Andy Pitman, Professor John Church, Professor Will Steffen, Professor Katrin Missner, and Professor Steven Sherwood.

Fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, is a mining technique in which pressurised fluid is injected into the ground to split open rock and release oil and gas.

The letter comes ahead of the release of the final report into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation by the Western Australia Independent Scientific Panel Inquiry. The panel consists of five scientists, none of whom are climate scientists.

The letter states that “Western Australia is already experiencing severe impacts of global warming, which will become far worse if emissions are not decisively reduced.”

In a recent release, The Australia Institute’s Mark Ogge said, “This enormously authoritative group has come together to call for a permanent ban on conventional oil and gas in WA.”

Leading climate scientist and former head of the CSIRO Atmospheric Research team Professor Graeme Pearman said, in a recent press release, “Western Australia is already facing severe drying in its most productive and populated areas due to global warming, increasing fire seasons and heat waves. Within our children’s lifetime, we are facing potential temperature rises of up to 6.5 degrees, with largely irreversible impacts on water supply, coastal flooding, crop and grazing production, human health and biodiversity.”

In a similar release, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics Dr. Bill Hare says, “Exploiting Western Australia’s unconventional gas resources would pose a threat to the world achieving the Paris Agreement goals, and make it impossible for Australia to meet its emission reduction target.”

“The science also shows that none of this fracking – neither in the Canning Basin or anywhere else – is needed.”

Fracking is a highly controversial practice, and the push to ban its use comes as much of New South Wales suffers through an intense drought, and the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuses to talk about the potential impacts of climate change (9News, 2018).

The future of fracking in WA is likely to be highly contested from both sides, whatever the results of the inquiry.

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