Public perception of the relationship between climate change and unconventional gas development ('fracking') in the US

Darrick Evensen, Benjamin Brown-Steiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

'Fracking', or unconventional gas development via hydraulic fracturing (hereafter 'UGD'), has been closely tied to global climate change in academic discourse. Researchers have debated the life cycle emissions of shale gas versus coal, rates of methane leakage from wellhead production and transmission infrastructure, the extent to which coal would be displaced by gas as a source of energy, the appropriate time-scale for accounting for the global warming potentials of methane and carbon dioxide, surface versus airborne methane measurements, and the effect of lowered energy prices on gas consumption. Little research, however, has examined the degree to which these potential connections between UGD and climate change are relevant to the general public. This article presents two surveys, one of a representative national (US) sample and one of a representative sample of residents in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania and New York. It examines whether respondents associated UGD with climate change, and the relationship between this association and their support for, or opposition to, UGD. The results reveal that beliefs about many other potential impacts of UGD explain more variation in support and opposition than do beliefs about UGD's association with climate change. Furthermore, most other impacts of UGD are viewed as having more effect on quality of life if they were to occur, at least amongst the Marcellus Shale survey sample. The article concludes with implications of the findings for policy and communication on UGD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-567
Number of pages12
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number5
Early online date8 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2018


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