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France upholds nationwide ban on fracking

France’s landmark ban on fracking has survived constitutional challenges lobbed by U.S.-company, Schuepbach Energy. On Friday, the nation’s Constitutional Council decided that the ban did not violate France’s constitution. Passed in 2011 under then President Nicolas Sarkozy, the ban has since been upheld by current President Francios Hollande.

“This law has been contested several times,” Hollande said on Friday as reported by the New York Times. “It is now beyond dispute.”

The ban was passed over concerns that fracking for shale gas could lead to polluted freshwater supplies, greenhouses gases, and even mini-earthquakes.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency has estimated that France may contain as much as 137 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas. However, studies have not been done to confirm this estimate and given the council’s decision it’s unlikely they will be anytime soon.

Although shale gas is less carbon intensive than other fossil fuels—such as coal—scientists say exploiting these reserves risks leaking methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon. According to the most recent mega-report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), many of the world’s fossil fuel deposits will have to be left unexploited.

Not only did the report reiterate that humans are responsible for current warming (with 95-100 percent likelihood), but also for the first time calculated how much greenhouse gases could be emitted if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change. According to the group, human society could emit 800-880 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases in total until temperatures would begin to rise two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a benchmark agreed on by scientists and governments. However, humanity has already emitted over 60 percent of this—530 gigatonnes as of 2011.

Currently, France largely depends on nuclear power for its electricity generation. While nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gas emissions, some environmentalists oppose it over pollution and storage issues. The industry has come under heavy scrutiny after the meltdown at Fukushima in Japan.

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