We’ve heard it many times: Let the science decide whether fracking is safe. This is a knee-jerk rhetorical response to a deeper question that is not so clear: Do the benefits of fracking outweigh risks? There are various ways to quantify and analyze this problem, and they all start on subjective ground of postulates, definitions, and hypotheses. One primary supposition is that natural gas burns cleaner than coal.
Andrew Revkin, an accomplished science writer who specializes in climate change, has been studying this from all angles, and today he will pull apart some of the complexity in a talk streamed from Cornell University. (CHECK HERE FOR LINK TO STREAM.) It’s an appropriate venue. Cornell is in the thick of the fracking debate, with faculty members who have published papers both in support and against the argument that natural gas is a desirable alternative to coal. Principals in this controversy include Lawrence M. Cathles, a professor of geological sciences (for), and Robert Howarth, an ecosystems scientist (against). Each academician has a cast of supporters and detractors.
Revkin, an author and senior fellow at Pace University, writes for the New York Times Dot Earth. Assessing emissions is one of many aspects of the fracking debate that he has been following. Revkin’s talk, “Important Science in an Urgent Age,” will begin at 4:30 today as part of a program sponsored by Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.