China’s shale gas should not be exploited


A critical reading of Justin Gillis shows that Elizabeth Muller (“China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas,” April 12, The New York Times) is arrantly misguided.

Ms. Muller posits that, “Exploiting its vast resources of shale gas is the only short-term way for China, ... to avoid huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal,” while acknowledging that “The risk is that what is now a nascent Chinese shale gas industry may take off in a way that leads to ecological disaster.”

Justin Gilles (“Study of Ice Age Bolsters Carbon and Warming Link,” Feb. 28, 2013, The New York Times) reports, “A meticulous new analysis of Antarctic ice suggests that the sharp warming that ended the last ice age occurred in lock step with increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the latest of many indications that the gas is a powerful influence on the earth’s climate.”

Mr. Gilles was reporting on an effort by Parrenin et al., published in Science, which reduced the gap by which purported effect (the global temperature anomaly) precedes purported cause (atmospheric carbon dioxide level) from 800 years to less than 200 years. There is no suggestion that purported cause (atmospheric carbon dioxide level) actually preceded the purported effect (the global temperature anomaly).

The observation that “atmospheric carbon dioxide lags temperature at major climate transitions (e.g., the end of the last interglacial)” by the National Research Council remains intact.

This may explain why Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan, in a study funded by the National Science Foundation and published in Nature Climate Change, found that, “‘As respondents’ science literacy scores increased, their concern with climate change decreased.” Disinterested scientifically literate people recognize that cause precedes effect, and conclude that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (lagging effect) are not driving the GTA (leading cause.)

China’s great environmental challenge is protecting and preserving a very limited water supply that is already severely degraded. Like India, China has only one-forth of Earth’s average per capita fresh water supply, and is beset by very high levels of pollution. It would be a tragedy of global proportions if it were to further degrade its water supply in an attempt to reduce their emissions of a harmless gas.

Ms. Muller is arrantly misguided in suggesting that China should exploit its shale gas to reduce carbon emissions. History will judge this trahison des clercs (treason of the intellectuals) harshly.

Jim Robles

Walla Walla


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