This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
More and more people have come to understand the urgency of the climate crisis in recent years, and Americans have elected a president in Joe Biden who has pledged to make addressing climate the centerpiece of his administration, but there is much debate about exactly how we should go about confronting our collective climate challenge. Choices we make today will echo for generations into the future.
In the run-up to Earth Day, Rolling Stone held a series of three debates, each focusing on a different contentious climate solution: solar geoengineering, carbon removal, and how quickly we can and should stop using natural gas.
Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel. It is also the most controversial. Everyone knows that dirty coal is evil and that oil is a 20th century fuel that will be decimated by the rapid transition to electric vehicles.
But natural gas is more complex. Advocates argue that it is a “bridge fuel” in the inevitable transition to clean energy, and that by displacing coal, it has an important role to play in reducing carbon pollution. It is also an increasingly important export, giving the U.S. a weapon to help undermine Russia’s dominance as a gas supplier in the global energy markets.
Critics argue that if we hope to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050 (the goal scientists say is necessary to keep warming below 1.5 C), natural gas has got to go now. Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is 40 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and may offset much of the climate advantages of burning gas over coal. And fracking, a type of drilling pioneered in the U.S. that has vastly increased the supply of natural gas, is its own nightmare, poisoning drinking water and leading to widespread environmental devastation.
Here to debate this is Julian Brave NoiseCat, a writer and vice president for Policy & Strategy at Data for Progress, a progressive think tank. He is also narrative change director of the Natural History Museum and a fellow of the Type Media Center, NDN Collective, and the Center for Humans and Nature. He is member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie. You can follow him on Twitter @jnoisecat
He is joined by Arvind Ravikumar, an assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania. He is also a non-resident fellow at the Payne Institute at the Colorado School of Mines, as well as at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. You can follow him on Twitter @arvindpawan1