The fact that there may be more greenhouse gas emissions than scientists originally thought is important. This is because the efforts being made to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions would need to be cut even more to make a dent in the damage that has been done.
New Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The new study will be published in a paper form next week in “BioScience.” It shows that hydropower may in fact be a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.
This is an unexpected source of something that is doing harm to the environment. Oftentimes people think of hydropower as a way to provide power to the world without harming the atmosphere. Man-made reservoirs, like the Hoover Dam, may be behind the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
There are approximately 1 million dams throughout the world that have been created for the purpose of providing electricity, irrigation and other human needs. While these forms of energy seem to be “green,” scientists have proven that they are emitting practically a billion tons of carbon dioxide each year (1.3 percent of the global total).
How Greenhouse Gases Affect the Environment
These gases are generally in the form of methane, which has a strong short-term warming effect. Some emissions of carbon dioxide can be used by humans for energy, like oil and gas. However, a great deal of these emissions are harming the atmosphere.
The latest research, as previously stated, shows that reservoirs that we are using for energy may actually be emitting more of these gases into the air (not usable for energy like gas and oil). According to the Washington Post, 79 percent of the gases being emitted from reservoirs are methane-based gases. Carbon dioxide accounted for 17 percent and nitrous oxide accounted for 4 percent.
“There’s been kind of an explosion in research into efforts to estimate emissions from reservoirs,” said Bridget Deemer, one author involved with the study. “So we synthesized all known estimates from reservoirs globally, for hydropower and other functions, like flood control and irrigation.”
Researchers also found that the estimates of methane emissions per area of reservoir are about 25 percent higher than scientists originally thought. According to Deemer this is especially important because there is a global boom in dam construction worldwide right now.
How to Fix the Problem
Deemer points out that the study didn’t only single out dams that are being used for energy purposes. Dams being used for other purposes are also causing issues with the environment. The information gathered by the team took a look at 267 reservoirs around the world which cover 30,000 square miles.
John Harrison, another author of the study, said that based on the information shown dams have been emitting about the same amount of gases as rice paddies. Rice paddy emissions, however, have been taken into account for years. Reservoirs have not.
In fact, Harrison said that based on the new study, it appears that reservoir emissions and rice paddy emissions are of about the same magnitude on a global scale — but rice paddy emissions have been taken into account for some time. Reservoir emissions often have not.
Still More to Be Discovered
Authors of the study acknowledge that there is still more information to be found out about greenhouse gas emissions, especially where dams are concerned. The current study findings do not represent a “life cycle analysis” of all the reservoirs in the world. The study also does not weigh in the fact that the majority of the reservoirs are used to generate hydropower. Using hydropower presumably creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal or natural gas.
Either way, the scientists know one thing for sure. These emissions, whether caused by hydropower or other sources, need attention. They are slowly eating away at the atmosphere and destroying the environment.
What do you think about the scientists’ findings?
Photo: carol bean