Hydropower is new source of greenhouse gases, says new study

Hydropower isn’t as clean as we thought.

Hydropower has always been touted as a clean source of generating electricity, despite of the facts that it displaces thousands of people from their natural abodes, destroys their lives and livelihoods and submerges huge amounts of lands and forests.

Now, a new study claims that it is also accelerating global warming (See: http://www.pulseheadlines.com/hydropower-accelerating-global-warming/51365/).

Hydropower isn’t as clean as we thought as building huge reservoirs means generating more Green House gasses and creating a big probability of reservoir-induced seismicity.

They are sold as the means to produce ‘green energy’ as they do not burn fossil fuel unlike thermal power plants. But, here also truth is just reverse as they contribute global warming; basically in two ways: on the one hand, they submerge a large amount was forests and greenery and as forests arrest global warming by carbon fixation, they destroy trees and on the other hand, methane is produced in large amount by their reservoirs and methane is a more potent global warming gas than carbon dioxide.  This is confirmed by a new study that concludes that reservoirs may produce 20 times more methane than normal during water ‘drawdown’.

The study is done by Washington State University the has found that during times of drawdown — a period in which the water level behind a dam is rapidly lowered — temperate reservoirs can produce up 20 times more methane than normal.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over 100-year period, and is a hundred times more potent over 20 years. It is produced naturally in reservoirs thanks to biological activity.

During drawdowns, though, when layers of decaying plants, among other things, are exposed, the amount of methane in the water column skyrockets. A doctoral student at Washington State University-Vancouver, measured dissolved gases in the water column of Lacamas Lake in Clark County and found methane emissions jumped 20-fold when the water level was drawn down. A fellow WSU-Vancouver student, Maria Glavin, sampled bubbles rising from the lake mud and measured a 36-fold increase in methane during a drawdown.”

Over the longer term, the research could help establish a tracking mechanism to inventory natural greenhouse gas emissions internationally in order to better understand the magnitude of the problem.

Hydropower produces 1.3% of Greenhouse gas emissions which is more than Canada’s net greenhouse gas production. Another study, which will be published next week in “Bioscience” – established that the reservoirs represent an important source of methane, which is a GHG which is 34 times more damaging that carbon dioxide, trapping 86 times more heat than CO2 over 20 years. The methane in reservoirs is produced by microbes living in the water consuming organic matter. It is important to be aware that hydropower-derived emissions are not yet considered in these inventories.

Little wonder, while the developed world is abandoning hydropower as many old dams in the US have simply been abandoned by their owners. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), several abandoned small dams have been washed out during storms in recent years. “These failures,” says the MDNR, “have caused extreme erosion, excessive sediment deposition and destruction of aquatic habitat accompanied by the loss of the fisheries.” Michigan taxpayers, through the MDNR, have had to pay for removing several “retired” hydroelectric projects, while their ex-owners have suffered no financial liabilities. The largest dam removal project in history is in the USA where the Elwha Ecosystem Restoration project on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington began in 2012.  Similarly, in Australia, a huge dam built on Glory River, costing over 2 billion dollars is being decommissioned. So the developed world is dumping this anti-people and anti-environment technology to the developing world, as in India only, If all proposed and under construction dams in the Himalayas (including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and the remaining North East are built, then Indian Himalayas would have: the Highest Dam Density in the World Dam density of the region would be: 0.3247/1000 km, nearly 62 times greater than current average global figures; the average of 1 dam for every 32 km of river channel would be 1.5 times higher than figures reported for U.S. rivers.

It should not happen.


  1. This is a poorly written article. Good information — awful grammar, which does not add to its credibility. Get an editor. One study does not “confirm” anything. One study indicates something. To confirm something, there needs to be at least one more study. The results must be repeatable, to be confirmed. For years, Americans were told that things like “fat free” foods, which contained high amounts of sugar, processed carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners, were good for us, because of one or a few flawed studies. I am not disputing the results of this study. I just hope to remind everyone that things like grammar and repeatable results still mean something.

  2. Send this back to the editor, terrible writing. It is difficult to read and leaves out important grammar.

  3. My God, the greenie nuts are at it again. By the way, The gases emitted by cattle are many times more damaging than C20. Therefore, any wacko global warming idiot that eats meat is a hypocrite.

  4. The carbon in methane was CO2 before plants stored the hydrocarbons. The really enormous amount of methane available for release into the atmosphere is that frozen methane in the deep oceans. If warmer ocean currents circulate into those deep, cold stored volumes, huge methane bubbles will be rapidly released. That methane volume has been held out of the atmosphere for centuries and could make dramatic changes in climate.

  5. Carlos Machina

    This methane production is part of the natural carbon cycle and wouldn’t be a problem unless mankind was busy adding burned fossilized hydrocarbons to the mix.

  6. I’m a person and I wouldn’t call dams “anti-people”. They can cause displacement when they are built, but so can any other large project. We should be researching ways to mitigate whatever environmental problems these things cause rather than just throwing a cheap, reliable technology away. We already can address the loss of fish habitat with ladders; maybe there is some way to cut the vegetation before it starts to rot, or even cap the tops of these reservoirs and collecting the methane for use as fuel.

  7. RegisteredDemocrat

    + Ban Solar (it cooks birds in flight)
    + Ban wind power (it chops up birds in flight)
    + Ban coal (it dirty!)
    + Ban natual gas (it creates greenhouse gases)
    + Ban Nuclear (it releases radiation in accidents)
    + Ban tidal energy (it confuses the whales)

  8. “Hydropower produces 1.3% of Greenhouse gas emissions which is more than Canada’s net greenhouse gas production. Another study, which will be published next week in “Bioscience”… ”

    That is utter nonsense and you should be smacked for saying it.

    The so-called “source” for this article is a sensationalist anti science website with no actual study associated, that references another anti-science website that wont load.

    Although it is certainly true that reservoir drawdowns can result in slightly increased rates of methane release, the total amount released is EXACTLY the same, since ALL of that wood and leaf matter was going to rot anyway, just a little slower than it did when they dropped the reservoir levels.

    All living things die. All dead things rot. All rotting things release carbon.

    meanwhile, the amount of CO2 that would have been released by burning fossil fuels to produce the same amount of energy as that dam does varies from 100’s of times more to 1000’s of times more CO2 equivalents than the methane and CO2 released by decaying organic matter in that reservoir – and keep in mind, all of that was going to decay anyway.

    The hallmark of stupidity is not knowing that you dont know diddly squat about a subject, but making assertions about it anyway. the hallmark of arrogance and foolishness is knowing you dont know diddly, but making assertions about the subject anyway.

    the author of this article is a stupid arrogant fool.

  9. Candid Curmudgeon

    Environmental wackos will not be happy until humans return to Paleolithic level of civilization.

    Which is none at all.

  10. Dan Doughty

    Well, no kidding? LOL. Sure there is “global warming”, but as many “experts” say, the causes are many, and some say that MAN MADE causes are on the low end. Things like volcanoes, earthquakes, under-ocean events put out so many gasses that they can’t even be calculated (They, the experts, don’t even know where most of them are…). It’s just MOTHER NATURES way….

  11. Hydropower has always been in the crosshairs of environmentalists so it was just a matter of time before they linked it to global warming or some other evil. Now that they’ve linked it to global warming, they’ll be able to rally more support to crushing what they always wanted gone in the first place. This looks like the strategy for environmentalists going forward.

  12. No Left Turn

    I can see why nobody at American Bazaar will take personal responsibility for this article in the by-line.

  13. I don’t know why anyone objects to the earth warming /man caused it scenario.The outcome matches biblical prophecy perfectly . A Revelation for all of you to consider.

  14. The way to solve the “greenhouse gas problem” is for all those who think it is a “problem” to report to the disintegration chambers immediately! In other words, keep your lunacy to yourselves and leave the normal people out of your delusions.

  15. What horrid b. s. Get a globe – look at the areas that are green, try to guess the percentage of those green areas that were submerged by dam reservoirs… um… on billionth of one percent?

  16. Tony Forbes

    LOL, Whats next?? Humans have been tracking weather how long?? Search John Coleman on Global Warming….

  17. Oh Jesus Christ. Will you people give it a rest?

  18. I grew up next to the Niagara falls Power plant. This story is crap. If anything it only teaches us how to use Hydro more carefully, not that it is inherently a problem. In the case of the plant at Niagara falls, there is no large reservoir as described in this article, because none is necessary.

  19. Alton Schwab

    Well what’s
    next oh I know humans breath out CO2 so we are causing Global Warming this
    whole thing is just getting a little ridiculous. seeing that we have seen no
    real change in the earths temperature over the last 20 years. We are told when
    we have a cold winter that its Global warming oh yeah now it’s climate change
    guess I have to try to stay up with the new buss words. The climate has been
    changing on earth forever it warms and it cools. They compare it to Venus but
    Venus has no vegetation to consume the CO2. I heard one time that we have to many
    cows they fart methane also a greenhouse gas we just can’t get a break. I guess we are all doomed

    • “seeing that we have seen no real change in the earths temperature” !! What’s the matter with you?! 11 of the last 12 years have been the hottest recorded – EVER. It’s HOTTER. AND IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE.

    • Again I state your reasoning is not worth the GED you have obtained. I will depend on the experts and their peer reviewed studies. You may go back to your ‘Fox’ ed-gee-ka-shun.

    • Brian Leger

      The problem is that no one can trust the government’s spin. I don’t believe much of anything that comes out of politicians’ mouths. Why should I and why should you?

    • Trix Rabbit

      No change? We’ve seen a nearly constant warming over the last 40 years. There is a consensus among scientists, with studies finding anywhere from 91% to 99% of scientist believe in man made warming.

      You can’t be called ignorant, as you have all the facts, unintelligent might be a better word.

  20. It’s estimated that reservoirs are adding 1.5% to the yearly total of greenhouse gases
    Fossil fuels and industrial processes account for 65%

  21. DiogenesDespairs

    Climate will do what climate will do as it has for hundreds of millions of years. Meanwhile, it is wise to base decisions and policy on hard fact.

    Here are some crucial, verifiable facts – with citations – about human-generated carbon dioxide and its effect on global warming people need to know and understand. I recommend following the links in the citations; some of them are very educational. And please feel free to copy/paste this comment wherever you think it will do the most good.

    The fact is, there has been global warming, but the contribution of human-generated carbon dioxide is necessarily so minuscule as to be nearly undetectable. Here’s why:

    Carbon dioxide, considered the main vector for human-caused global warming, is some 0.038% of the atmosphere[1]- a trace gas. Water vapor varies from 0% to 4%[2], and should easily average 1% or more[3] near the Earth’s surface, where the greenhouse effect would be most important, and is about three times more effective[4] a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So water vapor is at least 25 times more prevalent and three times more effective; that makes it at least 75 times more important to the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide[5]. The TOTAL contribution of carbon dioxide to the greenhouse effect is therefore 0.013 or less. The total human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution has been estimated at about 25%[6]. So humans’ carbon dioxide greenhouse effect is a quarter of 0.013, works out to about 0.00325. Total warming of the Earth by the greenhouse effect is widely accepted as about 33 degrees Centigrade, raising average temperature to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So the contribution of anthropogenic carbon dioxide is less than 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or under 0.1 degree Centigrade. Global warming over the last century is thought by many to be 0.6 to 0.8 degrees Centigrade.

    But that’s only the beginning. We’ve had global warming for more than 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age, and there is evidence temperatures were actually somewhat warmer 9,000 years ago and again 4,500 to 8,000 years ago than they are today[7]. Whatever caused that, it was not human activity. It was not all those power plants and factories and SUVs being operated by Stone Age cavemen while chipping arrowheads out of bits of flint. Whatever the cause was, it melted the glaciers that in North America once extended south to Long Island and parts of New York City[8] into virtually complete disappearance (except for a few mountain remnants). That’s one big greenhouse effect! If we are still having global warming – and I suppose we could presume we are, given this 10,000 year history – it seems highly likely that it is still the overwhelmingly primary cause of continued warming, rather than our piddling 0.00325 contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    Yet even that trend-continuation today needs to be proved. Evidence is that the Medieval Warm Period centered on the 1200s was somewhat warmer than we are now[9], and the climate was clearly colder in the Little Ice Age in the 1600s than it is now[10]. So we are within the range of normal up-and-down fluctuations without human greenhouse contributions that could be significant, or even measurable.

    The principal scientists arguing for human-caused global warming have been demonstrably disingenuous[11], and now you can see why. They have proved they should not be trusted.

    The idea that we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars and hamstringing the economy of the entire world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is beyond ludicrous in light of the facts above; it is insane. Furthermore, it sucks attention and resources from seeking the other sources of warming and from coping with climate change and its effects in realistic ways. The true motivation underlying the global warming movement is almost certainly ideological and political in nature, and I predict that

    Anthropogenic Global Warming, as currently presented, will go down as the greatest fraud of all time. It makes Ponzi and Madoff look like pikers by comparison.

    [1] Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition

    by Michael Pidwirny Concentration varies slightly with the growing season in the northern hemisphere. HYPERLINK “http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7a.html” http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7a.html

    [2] ibid.

    [3] HALOE v2.0 Upper Tropospheric Water Vapor Climatology Claudette Ojo, Hampton University; et al.. HYPERLINK “http://vsgc.odu.edu/src/Conf09/UnderGrad%20Papers/Ojo%20-%20Paper.pdf” http://vsgc.odu.edu/src/Conf09/UnderGrad%20Papers/Ojo%20-%20Paper.pdf. See p. 4.The 0 – 4% range is widely accepted among most sources. This source is listed for its good discussion of the phenomena determining that range. An examination of a globe will show that tropical oceans (near high end of range) are far more extensive than the sum of the earth’s arctic and antarctic regions and tropical-zone deserts (all near the low end). Temperate zone oceans are far more extensive than temperate-zone desert. This author’s guess of an average of 2% or more seems plausible. I have used “1% or more” in an effort to err on the side of understatement.

    [4 NIST Chemistry Webbook, Please compare the IR absorption spectra of water and carbon dioxide. ] HYPERLINK “http://webbook.nist.gov/” http://webbook.nist.gov/

    [5] Three quarters of the atmosphere and virtually all water vapor are in the troposphere. Including all the atmosphere would change the ratios to about 20 times more prevalent and 60 times more effective. However, the greenhouse effect of high-altitude carbon dioxide on lower-altitude weather and the earth’s surface seems likely to be small if not nil.

    [6] National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. HYPERLINK “http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/gases.html” http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/gases.html. The estimated 90ppm increase in carbon dioxide, 30% above the base of 280 ppm, to a recent reading of 370 ppm, equates to just under 25% of present concentration, the relevant factor in estimating present contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    [7] Oak Ridge National Laboratory http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc130k.html

    [8] New York Nature – The nature and natural history of the New York City region. Betsy McCully http://www.newyorknature.net/IceAge.html

    [9] Global Warming: A Geological Perspective John P. Bluemle HYPERLINK “https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs/Newsletter/NL99W/PDF/globlwrmw99.pdf” http://www.azgs.az.gov/arizona_geology/archived_issues/Winter_1999.pdf This article, published by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, is drawn from a paper by the author in Environmental Geosciences, 1999, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 63-75. Note particularly the chart on p.4.

    [10] Ibid.

    [11] Wikileaks: Climatic Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009 HYPERLINK “http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_emails,_data,_models,_1996-2009” http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_emails,_data,_models,_1996-2009.

    See also HYPERLINK “http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1246661/New-scandal-Climate-Gate-scientists-accused-hiding-data-global-warming-sceptics.html” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1246661/New-scandal-Climate-Gate-scientists-accused-hiding-data-global-warming-sceptics.html and

    HYPERLINK “http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704075604575356611173414140.html” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704075604575356611173414140.html and, more diplomatically: HYPERLINK “http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/science/01tier.html” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/science/01tier.html. Et al.


    What initially troubled me was the aberrant behavior of the climate research unit at East Anglia University, which had been the main data source for AGW arguments. They initially refused (!) to reveal their algorithms and data on the grounds that they were proprietary(!!). They responded to critics with ad hominem attacks and efforts to block their publication in scientific journals. Now, as I am sure you know, this is not how one does honest science, in which you PUBLISH your data and methodology and invite critical comment to ferret out error or oversights. It took the now-famous Wikileaks “Climategate” to pry loose the data and expose their machinations. Yet despite the devastating blow these revelations should have to their credibility, the AGW “cause” has taken on a life of its own.

    Fundamentally, the argument seems to rest on a logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc – after this, therefore because of this. We see a rise in temperature and a rise in (principally) carbon dioxide, and therefore conclude one must have caused the other. It does not necessarily follow at all. There can be other causes entirely behind both phenomena, and as you see above, almost certainly there are. Beyond that, I have encountered numerous assertions of fact that cannot add up given the physical properties of water vapor and carbon dioxide that go unchallenged. One-sided arguments proliferate and people arguing the other side are frequently denounced as being employed by business interests rather than rebutted on the merits.

    In sum, I have not come lightly to the conclusion that the AGW argument as it applies to carbon dioxide is largely untrue and certainly does not account for more than a very small, nearly negligible part of the phenomena we are seeing. The implications of widespread assertions of and belief in such an untruth are staggering, and potentially enormously destructive. It is unwise indeed to let oneself be stampeded in this matter, and stampede is clearly what many have been and are trying to induce.

    I can understand politicians behaving this way; a carbon tax or carbon trading regime would allow enormous revenues to fall into their hands. I can understand “Progressive” ideologues; it logically leads to enormous expansion of government power over industry, the economy, and the daily life of individuals, which they regard as a good thing. I understand the environmentalists; they want to shrink the size and impact on the environment of modern civilization. But responsible citizens need to put aside such considerations.

    • NullPointerException at java.s

      A simple cartoon of the global temperature variations is far more effective at illustrating long term temperature ranges than the above long rant: http://www.xkcd.com/1732/

    • Your ideas are flawed and incorrect. Human carbon emissions have clearly caused an inflection point in Global climate.

      There is no argument about this in climate science circles.

      ONLY internet trolls and republicans insist there is some question.

      • Robert Pope

        Present your evidence.

      • There is no argument about this in climate science circle jerks.

        There – fixed it for you.

      • Ok, he just made a thorough, well-reasoned, and highly cited argument- meanwhile, you responded by saying “you’re wrong, some other guys said so” (I paraphrase, here).

        If this were a debate you would be laughed out of the room. If you’re gonna take a swing at a post like that, you better not miss- because right now, your inane response is making his post look even better.

      • There is zero evidence for your statements — all of them!

      • The poster supplied source citations to bolster his narrative. You, on the other hand, provide nothing to support your rather snide remarks. Appeal to the masses is a fallacious argument.

      • In some circles folks are convinced the sky is green. These folks don’t argue about it either.
        ONLY you and your fellow totalitarians/tyrants/progressives would dare try and shut down/stop/ honest questions about a system that nobody truly understands.
        Some with no political affiliation question the mechanics of “climate change”.
        I realize your “religion” will not permit heretical views but you’re a bigot to boost.
        Carry on.

        • If you want to be the “heretic” that argues the world is flat, I certainly can’t stop you.

          Science is a process not a religion. Often we are wrong. Eventually thing become quite clear and really aren’t arguable by people that have studied and have some understanding.

          Your contrary viewpoint is being used by ignorant political opportunists.

    • I understand that there’s only 0.04 percent carbon dioxide in the air (methane 100 times smaller) and that causation is totally different from correlation. I live in a tropical climate and last year was really hot. This year is even hotter as it is at midnight in October that I feel comfortable enough to turn off the fan at my bedside. So in the typical American fashion of thinking that we can solve any insurmountable problem, we attempt to solve this problem of each year being hotter than the previous year. Is it a worthwhile endeavor, or is there simply nothing we can do?

    • Bluhorizons

      You certainly seem to know a lot about carbon dioxide but what about the rest of the planetary emergency? We are In the midst of a Great Extinction, caused entirely by man. The ocean are acidifying, the corals are dying in many places, the large fish are disappearing, mostly eaten and they are being replaced by jellyfish. There is a pollinator crisis, or bees are disappearing, there is a growing shortage of fresh water, aquifers in many places are almost gone, water accumulated for hundred of thousands of years is almost exhausted–did we think it would last forever? What will happen in the Great Plains when the aquifer is gone? All of these things, combined with the possibility that you are wrong and all the scientists are right makes one think that civilisation is on the verge of collapse. Tine to start looking at the big picture.

      The root cause of all these things is NOT greenhouse gasses. That is just a symptom. The cause is over population. There are NOT too many machines that pollute. There is too much and too many of everything. There are way too many of us now and more coming soon. Every prediction by “experts” over my lifetime that the population explosion was slowing down have been wrong. That is a lot like predicting the Republican party will disappear.

      While it is vastly expensive to hurry and make ever cleaner machines, it is a lot cheaper and more effective to spend more money on global population control. I am not suggesting we abandon cleaner energy. But clean energy is just one part of the solution. We could start by setting an example: no more tax breaks of large families. A growing complaint against religions that refuse birth control. Relating aid money to population control. Obliging every teacher in the world to tell kids that small families are the friends of the earth. Religious people often say “God will provide.” And, He has. he has given us the brains to save ourselves.

    • you could have saved yourself a lot of time and just written this: “i am a fool, dont know squat about climate science, and dont know squat about economics”.

    • I did not see a PHD next to your name, that or you just cut and paste what your polluting overloads provide for you…

    • I did not see a PHD next to your name, that or you just cut and paste what your polluting overloads provide for you…

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