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Methane Malaise
Even Hydro Power Is Bad for the Climate

A new study has some worrying news for our planet’s climate: reservoirs formed from man-made dams are emitting far more greenhouse gases than previously believed. As the Washington Post reports, that’s not good news for hydroelectric power:

[A] new paper, slated to be published next week in BioScience, confirms a  significant volume of greenhouse gas emissions coming from a little-considered place: Man-made reservoirs, held behind some 1 million dams around the world and created for the purposes of electricity generation, irrigation, and other human needs. In the study, 10 authors from U.S., Canadian, Chinese, Brazilian, and Dutch universities and institutions have synthesized a considerable body of prior research on the subject to conclude that these reservoirs may be emitting just shy of a gigaton, or billion tons, of annual carbon dioxide equivalents. That would mean they contributed 1.3 percent of the global total. […]

“[We] found that the estimates of methane emissions per area of reservoir are about 25 percent higher than previously thought, which we think is significant given the global boom in dam construction, which is currently underway,” [said the study’s lead author and Washington State University researcher Bridget Deemer].

Greens like to imagine that the only thing keeping renewables from powering the entire world is a lack of political will, and that if we could somehow convince our leadership of their value, we’d be able to live in harmony with nature.

It’s not as simple as that, though. Every kind of energy source has its drawbacks. Wind turbines chop up a surprisingly large number of migratory birds. Solar power plants have been known to fry some birds mid-flight—one installation in the Mojave desert was estimated to kill some 28,000 birds annually. Now we’re learning that the reservoirs created by dams used for hydroelectric projects release large amounts of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon.

None of these are reasons to stop building wind or solar farms, or to abandon hydroelectricity, but they should serve as a timely reminder that we don’t have any no-risk energy options—whatever greens might try to claim.

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  • Tom

    Is it just me, or does the green movement seem bound and determined to eliminate all power sources that allow industrial civilization to exist?

    • Boritz

      If the common people (not them ) were squatting in the mud semi-naked and stung by mosquitos the greens would be happy — for a while — then thy would call for further austerity.

    • LarryD

      It’s not just you. I don’t have the links handy, but some notable greens have declaimed against the very idea of cheap power, others have openly wished to go back to before the industrial revolution, with an attendant 90% die-off of humanity.

      • Jim__L

        Some of these greens have held high posts in the Obama administration. It’s worth a look.

        • CaliforniaStark

          When running for president, Obama stated that as president his policies would result in energy prices skyrocketing.

          The free market and a Republican Congress prevented this from happening. Perhaps he smugly accepted the “peak oil” propaganda of greens at the time — that oil and natural gas would quickly run out, and fracking would then end. In the interim, his expensive renewable energy projects would succeed, and be the beginning of an energy renaissance with renewable energy quickly replacing fossil fuels.

          After several major bankruptcies like Solyndra; and disappointing results from massive renewable projects like Ivanpah; as of 2015 only about 0.6% of the nation’s electricity came from solar, and only 4.7% from wind. Americans are also now using more gasoline in the transportation sector than ever before.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlTxGHn4sH4

    • Rick Johnson

      No Tom, it’s not you. That is precisely the Greens’ dream. Every stupidity put forward by the Greens can be explained when you understand that their goal is to unwind the industrial revolution. They want us to be forced back to the caves. They are so stupid as to believe that humanity would be better off if we were scratching around in the dirt like pre-industrial primitives.

      • Blackbeard

        Very true but don’t imagine that the “Greens” are just some powerless cranks. John Holden, Obama’s science advisor, is a friend, disciple and co-author of Paul Ehrlich, he of “Population Bomb” fame. Read his earlier stuff, now suppressed since he became political, and you can see he is full on neo-Malthusian.

        These are the folks setting our energy and environmental policy. As Trump would say, sad.

    • rpabate

      BINGO! You figured it out on the first try. The most vocal and activist greens are of the opinion that humans are a cancer on this earth. Alex Epstein’s book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” will provide many examples of this anti-human attitude. For example, Epstein provides a quote attributed to Prince Philip, former head of the World Wildlife Fund: “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to over population.” Then there is David Graber writing in the LaTimes about Bill McKibben’s book “Mother Nature as a Hothouse Flower”: “Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.” also from Epstein’s book.

      It’s not about clean energy. If it was, then they would support nuclear. Why wind and solar are supported is because wind and solar cannot support the current world population. Billions would perish in a wind and solar powered world, which would be just fine with the Eco nuts.

  • Gary Hemminger

    Everything causes global warming. At some point the whole thing gets ridiculous. 10,000 years ago there was ice a mile thick covering NY state. I went a visited Chamonix in france and the glacier has been melting since man has first recorded it and there were no SUV’s when it was melting in the 1800’s. If you want to see a chart that shows you that for 100 years now the media and scientists have been telling us we are all going to die from global warming or global cooling, take a look at this one from the farmers almanac…it puts things in perspective. Note the NY Times switching their position from global warming to global cooling multiple times…http://www.almanac.com/sites/default/files/d6/1895_cvr1_0.png

    • 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.

      ADDENDUM

      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.

      • rpabate

        Excellent!!!

  • FriendlyGoat

    “[We] found that the estimates of methane emissions per area of reservoir are about 25 percent higher than previously thought”.

    Not to dismiss the substance of this, but today’s estimates of almost anything on any subject are often later found to be off by 25% or more.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Bravo to you for pointing this out. Now…since we are acknowledging this, how can anyone think that we should be making policy that has such broad-reaching impacts based upon what we know to be faulty (or at the very least wildly unreliable) estimates?

      • FriendlyGoat

        Usually because we don’t have any other basis for making ANY policy except in consideration of estimations of what will happen “if we do” and what will happen “if we don’t”. Wasn’t it Yogi Berra who said “Predictions are hard, especially about the future” (or something like that)?

        I guess one reaction I have to this article is that the scientists are saying the methane emission is 25% more than anyone thought and are NOT saying, hey, it’s fifty times what we thought or some other huge difference. When the first dams were built, there was probably no “thought” at all about this particular subject.

        • Jim__L

          Our other option is to rein in those who compulsively make policy.

        • f1b0nacc1

          To answer your last question first….the folks at Party Cove are likely to be too busy partying and running IC-powered boats to bother with the warmist’s hysteria.

          As for marking policy based upon shaky science, I might argue that since the warmist claims haven’t been able to be successfully validated against existing measurements (for instance, temperatures have not risen in the ways predicted, and CO2 and Methane emissions don’t even come close to matching predictions), then one must argue that these estimates are a poor basis for policy. As with so many other things, Yogi Berra was right about this…predictions are hard…so perhaps we shouldn’t be basing policy upon them….

          Given the costs, both in terms of dollars and in terms of freedoms, the warmists should shoulder the burden of proof….

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Interesting to note that the Province of Ontario, Canada, has decided to stop buying renewable power because that would save them $3.8 billion a year with no additional greenhouse gases added to their grid. Ontario is the province directly north of the Great Lakes and has 13 million people, the largest of any province. So each person would save $316 per year in power costs or about $948 per household in energy savings.

    There are 250,000 lakes and 62,000 miles of rivers in Ontario. 94% of the population is concentrated in Toronto area. Reportedly, smog has been virtually eliminated after the closure of coal fired power plants but weather has more influence on smog than man made smog. Lung cancer rates have reportedly declined since 2000 but are still on an upward trajectory.

  • JR

    But if everything causes global climate change, doesn’t it mean that nothing is causing global climate change? That it is happening pretty much on its own since, oh, I don’t know, the beginning of Earth as a planet.

  • Rick Johnson

    All this carnage and destruction to tackle a problem that has no scientifically credible evidence to back it up.
    The sheer stupidity of the human race is a horror to behold.

  • CaliforniaStark

    Not to give credence to an otherwise questionable study, but dams are built along rivers that often have wetlands and swamps. These areas produce a significant amount of methane. Did the authors determine the greenhouse gas emissions from the land prior to the dams being built and the lakes created?

    According to some environmentalists, we have passed the point of no return on global warming, and human life will soon end on this planet; without us, the earth will regenerate itself and return to its natural, blissful state. As someone once said: “The world would be such a wonderful place without human beings, just animals breathing clean air & eating each other.”

    • f1b0nacc1

      Well, if we have passed the point of no return (palpable nonsense, of course, but still…), then why not enjoy ourselves while waiting for the inevitable end?

  • Tate Metlen

    If the dams were to be removed, the methane generation would just be transferred further downstream. The cause of this isn’t dams; it’s agriculture and nutrient rich water.

  • ARMSTROB

    Wind and solar do not work because the technology is not there and it may never come. And some clown just saying ” make it happen, here’s 500 million dollars ” never solves any problem. There was actual incentive to land a man on the moon but there is no proof that lowering the worlds temperature by 1 deg. will out weigh the benefits of using that money somewhere else, like water wells. Much of this global warming is just bad science. DDT ring a bell? Or the 1970’s scare that the world was getting too cold and everyone would soon start starving to death? same people doing the same bad science. Global warming has way too much to do with central planning and filling the pockets of political allies. The only dumber statement than ” man has nothing to do with it ” is ” the debate is over”.

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