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  • Burning fracked methane creates environmental injustice, both because fracking is toxic, and because burning methane harms the biosphere through global heating.
  • There are also environmental justice issues around our ask to Electrify. However, those challenges must and can be met: any path to stopping global heating passes through electrification.

This tectonic challenge is man-made. It is a civilizational, moral and existential challenge – to humanity today, tomorrow, and for the future generations. If not addressed properly, the effects of this ecological challenge will be catastrophic to all future generations. Be they from the west or from the south, be they white, black, yellow or in-betweens. [My] remarks are thus driven by a certain consciousness. And an enduring determination and a vigilant critique of anti-ecological knowledge, immaturity and environmental dis-enlightenment, bent on not only denying science, but one that has marshalled successfully so far a grand strategy to render impotent any moral, social, economic and political, or categorical transformative leadership.

Lumumba Di’Aping, Lead Negotiator for the Global South at Copenhagen COP15, in 2009.

By burning so much fracked methane, UC perpetuates climate injustice in two ways:

  • Indirectly, it harms the most vulnerable people around the world who bear the brunt of climate change even though they did the least to contribute to global warming; it also harms the wider biosphere; and it harms future generations, not yet born.
  • More directly, it affects the health and well-being of people in the US who are exposed to the deleterious effects of the extraction of “natural” gas, including the families of some of UC’s least privileged students. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations are one of the primary sources of methane and are common in central California. Those who live near fracking sites, often due to historical disadvantages and discriminatory economic policies, are exposed to polluted groundwater stores and have a disproportionate amount of asthma, skin conditions, cancer, urologic problems, miscarriages and preterm births.

As a consumer of energy UC can’t change state policy on renewable energy mixtures in the grid, but UC can choose to “get off the gas” and electrify to minimize its contributions to climate change and help the most impacted communities who may not have the resources to be able to make these changes for themselves. Under state law, we’ll have over 60% renewables (wind and solar) in the electricity supply by 2030. That means a whole lot less methane being burned, and a whole lot less methane leaking.

A different environmental justice issue comes up in our request to get off the gas, and electrify the campuses. Electrification is not without its challenges, because, for example, it requires rare earth metals and manufacturing. See the Electrification page.

Fracking wells supply methane in pipelines in the Central Valley of California. Fracking is a very toxic process that poisons groundwater and air, inducing birth defects and cancers in frontline communities. Methane also leaks out of the pipes, a very serious problem. And burning methane produces carbon dioxide, over 1 million tonnes in the UC system. Image from Grist.