Chart: LNG expansion plans threaten global climate progress

The gas industry aims to dramatically expand capacity for exporting liquefied natural gas. That would be very bad news for the climate.
By Canary Staff

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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

What will happen if the natural-gas industry carries through with its plans to build a lot more infrastructure for shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) around the globe? The world will be much more likely to blow past safe climate limits, according to a report from research group Climate Action Tracker.

chart showing the impact of over-building LNG capacity on the world's ability to hit its climate goals
Source: Climate Action Tracker and Climate Analytics (Geoff McGhee/Canary Media)

The U.S. is expected to become the world’s leading exporter of LNG this year, but the nation’s gas industry isn’t stopping there. On top of the eight LNG export terminals currently operating in the U.S., at least 24 new projects to build or expand terminals are either underway or planned. If all those facilities get built, their operation alone could emit more greenhouse gases each year than 20 new coal-fired power plants, according to the Environmental Integrity Project — without even accounting for the emissions from drilling or fracking the gas before it’s exported or the emissions from ultimately burning it.

The U.S. gas industry has argued that its planned facilities are needed to supply gas to Europe because Russian supplies of gas are no longer available or dependable. But the proposed buildout would provide far more gas that Europe will need — especially as the war in Ukraine has spurred European countries to speed up the transition to clean energy. Climate Action Tracker calculates that if all of the LNG capacity currently planned or being built around the world actually comes online, the oversupply of LNG by 2030 could be almost five times the amount that the European Union imported from Russia in 2021.

A ramp-up in LNG trade would also stymie progress toward meeting global climate goals. Under the International Energy Agency’s scenario for cutting climate emissions to net zero by 2050, global LNG trade would need to peak in the mid-​2020s and then fall to 2021 levels by 2030 and fall much further by 2050. Climate Action Tracker found that massive LNG expansion plans will seriously compromise meeting the 1.5°C limit” — the global temperature threshold that climate scientists say we must stay below to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Chart by Geoff McGhee. See his data-visualization feature on the LNG export boom clashing with climate goals. 

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