Title

The Effects of Dams on Climate Change

Date

5-26-2016 11:00 AM

End Time

26-5-2016 1:00 PM

Location

WUC Pacific Room

Department

Geography

Session Chair

Mark M. Van Steeter

Session Title

Geography: Climate Change

Faculty Sponsor(s)

Mark Van Steeter

Abstract

Dams could play a massive role in anthropogenic climate change, and not necessarily for the better. The reservoirs behind dams are a growing source of global methane (CH4) emissions, leading a number of researchers to question the net benefits of hydroelectric dams in some locations in the fight against climate change. As organic material flows into reservoirs and decomposes, it produces CH4 that eventually reaches the atmosphere. Globally, this accounts for at least 20 percent of human-caused methane emissions. This process is amplified in areas with large amounts of biomass, such as tropical and other lower-latitude areas where dams are being built at a quick rate. Though CH4 does not last as long in the atmosphere as CO2, it has the potential to have an effect 25 times greater on climate change over a 100 year period due to its greater capacity to trap energy in the atmosphere. As we look for sources of clean and renewable energy to adapt to a changing climate, understanding the pros and cons of dams is crucial. Continued research and improved measuring techniques are likely needed before a definitive conclusion can be reached regarding dams and their effects on climate change.

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May 26th, 11:00 AM May 26th, 1:00 PM

The Effects of Dams on Climate Change

WUC Pacific Room

Dams could play a massive role in anthropogenic climate change, and not necessarily for the better. The reservoirs behind dams are a growing source of global methane (CH4) emissions, leading a number of researchers to question the net benefits of hydroelectric dams in some locations in the fight against climate change. As organic material flows into reservoirs and decomposes, it produces CH4 that eventually reaches the atmosphere. Globally, this accounts for at least 20 percent of human-caused methane emissions. This process is amplified in areas with large amounts of biomass, such as tropical and other lower-latitude areas where dams are being built at a quick rate. Though CH4 does not last as long in the atmosphere as CO2, it has the potential to have an effect 25 times greater on climate change over a 100 year period due to its greater capacity to trap energy in the atmosphere. As we look for sources of clean and renewable energy to adapt to a changing climate, understanding the pros and cons of dams is crucial. Continued research and improved measuring techniques are likely needed before a definitive conclusion can be reached regarding dams and their effects on climate change.