Tipping the Scales on Hydropower and Climate Change

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“>Three Gorges Dam:

“Although China’s Three Gorges Dam can produce over 22,000 MW of electricity, its 600-km2 reservoir eliminated or fragmented habitats in the bio-diverse mountains of central China. The dam threatens at least 37 endemic plant taxa and 44 endemic fish species,and has displaced over 1 million people, creating pressure on biodiversity as new areas are transformed to support displaced agriculture.”

The experts go on to note that in other biodiversity hotspots worldwide, such as the Himalayas, proposed dams will “submerge natural ecosystems, damage fisheries, displace residents, and disrupt the timing, volume, and quality of river flows.” And when biodiversity goes, so does our ecosystems’ ability to maintain critical ecological services such as carbon sequestration, storm buffering, flood control, potable water, and the genetic diversity of crops. We and all other species depend on these services to survive, and their conservation will be even more critical as the impacts of climate change intensify.

The researchers end by noting that more research into the indirect effects of climate change is needed, so that when we do mitigate against the negative impacts, we don’t start a new chain of human and ecological disasters.

If the scale tips too far to one side, as large-dam hydropower demonstrates, better seek better alternatives.