Quantcast
Insights/Opinion

It's Official: Hydropower Is Dirty Energy

Over the last two years, I've written four articles about the massive problem with methane emissions from hydropower dams and reservoirs. Finally, the mainstream media covered this story Thursday after an international team of scientists released a new study that synthesizes more than 100 scholarly articles on the topic.


The Seattle Times headline read, "Hydropower Isn't Carbon Neutral After All" and the Washington Post headline read, "Oh Great—Scientists Have Confirmed A Key New Source Of Greenhouse Gases"

The scientific study featured in these news articles will appear next week in the journal Bioscience and is co-authored by 10 international researchers including scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As reported in the Seattle Times and Washington Post, key findings in the scientific study include:

  • Methane emissions from dams and reservoirs across the planet, including hydropower, are estimated to be significantly larger than previously thought, approximately equal to 1 gigaton per year.
  • The international boom in the construction of hydropower projects is rapidly accelerating this increase in methane emissions.
  • Reservoirs in mid-latitude areas of the planet, including in the U.S., can have as high of methane emissions as those in tropical countries which have been measured to emit as much greenhouse gases as coal-fired power plants.
  • The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should now better account for these massive methane emissions and include them in climate change scenarios.

In the four articles I wrote:

  1. Why Hydropower Is Not Clean Or Cheap
  2. Hydropower Will Undermine COP21 As False Solution To Climate Change
  3. The Hydropower Methane Bomb No One Wants To Talk About
  4. Dams Cause Climate Change, They Are Not Clean Energy

I laid out the science behind why dams and reservoirs cause methane emissions. I explained how there are hundreds of dams under construction right now and thousands in the planning process, and I described how the U.S. government and the IPCC need to address this issue because countries around the world are sweeping it under the rug.

Now I'm taking it a step farther. I'm calling for a global moratorium on the construction and permitting of all hydropower projects.

Hydropower is being pushed forward as "clean" and "carbon free" by an industry that is making hundreds of billions of dollars per year building dams. Countries, including the U.S., are in denial about how hydropower is contributing to climate change. Corruption in developing countries is undermining democracy and endangering the lives of local people who are fighting these projects. The murder of dam-fighter Berta Cáceres in Honduras got widespread international attention, but it is only the tip of the iceberg for the human rights abuses faced by local people fighting hydropower across the planet.

A moratorium on hydropower is the only just path forward.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Judge Halts Seismic Testing Permits During Shutdown

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Pxhere

DiCaprio-Funded Study: Staying Below 1.5ºC is Totally Possible

Climate change has been called the biggest challenge of our time. Last year, scientists with the United Nations said we basically have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5ºC to avoid planetary catastrophe.

Amid a backdrop of rising global carbon emissions, there's a real case for pessimism. However, many scientists are hopeful of a way out.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Martin Luther King Jr. at steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

MLK Would Have Been an Environmental Leader, Too

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words and actions continue to resonate on the 90th anniversary of his birth.

As the country honors the life and legacy of the iconic civil rights leader today, we are reminded that the social justice and the climate movements are deeply connected.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A great tit family and nest. Bak GiSeok / 500px / Getty Images

Climate Change Leading to Fatal Bird Conflicts

By Marlene Cimons

Most Europeans know the great tit as an adorable, likeable yellow-and-black songbird that shows up to their feeders in the winter. But there may be one thing they don't know. That cute, fluffy bird can be a relentless killer.

The great tit's aggression can emerge in gruesome ways when it feels threatened by the pied flycatcher, a bird that spends most of the year in Africa, but migrates to Europe in the spring to breed. When flycatchers arrive at their European breeding grounds, they head for great tit territory, knowing that great tits—being year-round European residents—know the best nesting sites.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Saving the World’s Largest Tropical Wetland

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

35,000 Protestors in Berlin Call for Agricultural Revolution

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A Massachusetts road coated with snow and ice following the winter storm which prompted Trump to mock climate change. Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Trump Once Again Confuses Weather and Climate in Response to Deadly Winter Storm

President Donald Trump has once again contradicted the findings of the U.S. government when it comes to the threat posed by climate change. Days after a Department of Defense report outlined how climate-related events like wildfires and flooding put U.S. military installations at risk, Trump took to Twitter to mock the idea that the world could be getting warmer, Time reported.

Trump's tweet came in response to a massive winter storm that blanketed the Midwest and Northeast this weekend.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
The fire that erupted after a pipeline explosion in Mexico Friday. FRANCISCO VILLEDA / AFP / Getty Images

85 Dead in Mexican Pipeline Explosion

A dramatic pipeline explosion in central Mexico Friday has killed at least 85 people, Mexican Health Minister Jorge Alcocer Valera said Sunday night, The Associated Press reported.

The explosion occurred in a field in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan as people rushed to gather fuel from the pipeline, which had been ruptured by suspected thieves. Many were covered in oil before a fireball shot into the air.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!