Impacts of China’s hydropower boom

by Judith Curry

China is engaged in a push to build hydroelectric dams on a scale unprecedented in human history. While being touted for producing lower-emission electricity, these massive dam projects are wreaking havoc on river systems across China and Southeast Asia. – Charlton Lewis

Yale Environment 360 has a good article on hydropower China’s Great Dam Boom: A Major Assault On Its Rivers, written by Chinese historian Charlton Lewis.  Excerpts:

In their search for renewable electric power, China’s engineers have been building mega-dams at a rate unmatched in human history.

The government is now engaged in a new expansion of dams in great staircases, reservoir upon reservoir — some 130 in all across China’s Southwest. The government declares that such dams are safe, avoid pollution, address future climate change, control floods and droughts, and enhance human life.

These assertions are largely untrue. Instead, China’s mega-dams block the flow of rivers, increase the chances of earthquakes, destroy precious environments and shatter the lives of millions of people. Rather than benefiting populations with non-polluting power, China’s dam builders are making a Faustian bargain with nature, selling their country’s soul in their drive for economic growth.

Since the 1950s the Chinese have built some 22,000 dams more than 15 meters tall, roughly half the world’s current total. During the 1990s, as economic growth surged and air pollution spurred the need for clean energy, they turned increasingly to huge mega-dams.

About 100 dams are in various stages of construction or planning on the Yangtze and its tributaries — the Yalong, Dadu, and Min. Two dozen more will be built on the Lancang, called the Mekong in Southeast Asia, and still more on the last two of China’s free-flowing rivers — the Nu, called the Salween in Burma, and the Yarlung Tsangpo, known as the Brahmaputra in India and the Jamuna in Bangladesh. All these rivers flow off the Tibetan Plateau, a geologically unstable region that averages 4,500 meters (14,800 feet) high. As they flow down through the soft, sedimentary rock, the rivers carve steep canyons, many deeper than the Grand Canyon. The risk of earthquakes is high.

Dams themselves may cause quakes. The seasonal rise and fall of reservoirs places extra stress on nearby rock formations. In 2007 and 2008, the reservoir filled, with major fluctuations in the water level. In May 2008, the 7.9-magnitude Wenchuan quake occurred only 5.5 kilometers downstream, killing 80,000 people. Since then, more than 50 studies have found evidence that the reservoir triggered small quakes through the fault system, culminating in the large quake.

Until recently, there have been no EIAs for dams in cascades. Since river valleys tend to follow earthquake fault lines, a series of dams down a valley may compound the risk of quakes. Should one dam fail, the rush of water could overwhelm the next dam downstream, causing dams to collapse like dominos.

Although hydroelectric dams produce considerably fewer carbon emissions than coal-fired power plants, China’s assertions that dams provide clean energy are substantially untrue. The rotting of inundated trees and vegetation in reservoirs emits the greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide and methane, that rise from reservoir surfaces. Over a projected lifetime of a dam in temperate regions, emissions could be from roughly one-third to nearly two-thirds that of a natural gas plant.

Nor do big dams protect from floods and droughts. They store water during the wet season and release it during the dry season, thus reversing the natural flow of rivers. Deprived of their annual inundations, downstream marshes, lakes, and wetlands dry out and can no longer absorb floodwaters. During the record-breaking summer flood of 2010, the Three Gorges reservoir rose to 12 meters above “alarm level.” To protect the dam, its operators opened the floodgates to the maximum.  Downstream some 968 people were killed, 507 more were missing and economic losses totaled $26 billion.

Drier floodplains intensify droughts; when rivers diminish, dam operators preserve their hydropower potential by withholding water. On the upper reaches of the Yellow River to the north, a string of large dams has exacerbated recent droughts on the North China Plain.

The damage that dams cause to river ecosystems is immense, turning free-flowing waterways into lifeless lakes, killing plants and trees, blocking fish migration and breeding, driving species to extinction, and devastating established patterns of human life.

Dams also pollute. Their reservoirs capture chemicals, fertilizer runoff, human waste and all kinds of trash. During the 2010 flood, floating refuse backed up behind the Three Gorges Dam over an area of more than 50,000 square meters, so thick, according to the Hubei Daily “that people can literally walk on the water’s surface.” Without annual floods, dammed rivers fail to flush contaminants downstream. As the rivers percolate into the ground, they deliver pollutants into the aquifers — this in a country where nearly 60 percent of groundwater in 198 cities has been measured as poor, according to a report this year by the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Dam reservoirs trap silt, which decreases their storage capacity and reduces power generation. Silt no longer carries nutrients down the rivers, and without protective silt, salt water encroaches on estuaries and damages croplands. Estuaries also become more vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Great dams also devastate human populations. During the past half-century about 16 million Chinese have been relocated to make way for hydroelectric projects, and of these 10 million live in poverty, according to China Youth Daily.

China’s dam projects also threaten livelihoods in other countries. Since 1997 China’s government has declined to sign the United Nations water-sharing convention that would govern its major transnational rivers, yet it continues to build dams without consulting its downstream neighbors.

On the Mekong, China’s dams are affecting agriculture and fisheries. In Laos and Thailand, crops are regularly washed away before harvest time as upstream dams release their water. Nutrient-rich silt no longer reaches the Mekong delta, which is reducing fish stocks. In Burma and Thailand, environmental groups have spoken out about the threats to wildlife and populations from dams now planned for China’s Nu/Salween. A colossal 38,000-megawatt project has been proposed at Motuo on the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet. The project would pose a serious threat not only to the Tibetan Plateau but to India and Bangladesh, where the Yarlung becomes the Brahmaputra and Jamuna rivers.

Asian Riparian Security Threats

Several years ago, my company CFAN had a project funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to look at climate-related security concerns.  One of the things we looked at was that riparian threats associated with the circum-Himalayan Rivers.  Below are some excerpts of background information from our report:

Major rivers originating in the Himalayas include the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Irrawaddy, and Yellow Rivers.  Their combined drainage basin is home to 3 billion people, including Afghanistan, China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.  The headwaters of these rivers lie in the Himalayas in Tibet, parts of which are under the control of the People’s Republic of China.  Given the large and growing population of South and Southeast Asia and the increasing demand for water for irrigated farming and industry, transboundary disputes over water are ongoing and are significant and growing concerns, particularly if a major drought looms in the future.  These disputes are central to food security, energy needs and resources and the future of water resources in the region.  Riparian security issues are key for two major rivers in the region – the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers – and climate change (particularly drought) might act as a threat accelerant in riparian conflicts in South Asia.

Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra River is a transboundary river that spans China, India, and Bangladesh.  It begins in southwestern Tibet (in China), flows through the Himalayas into India.  In India it transverses the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, and then enters Bangladesh.  In Bangladesh it eventually merges with the Ganges River to create a significant delta area, and ultimately empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Competition over water resources uses, including power, agriculture, and navigation, are the primary issues facing China, India, and Bangladesh with regards to the Brahmaputra.  In its upper Himalayan reaches, the Brahmaputra is considered the last major undammed river in Chinese Tibet. China is currently in the midst of constructing a series of massive facilities on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, in the Himalayas.  Construction was once considered to have been infeasible because of the altitude and rugged terrain – but recent engineering achievements and advances have made the possibility of dam construction a reality.  China has planned construction of a series of 28 dams. The Zhangmu facility is amongst these and is projected to be completed in 2015.  It is predicted to provide 450-500 MW per year.  While the Zhangmu Dam is large, it is dwarfed by the planned Yarlung Tsangpo facility.  This planned dam facility will provide 38 GW, and will be 50 % larger than China’s Three Gorges dam.  Some analysts have described the potential power output of Yarlung Tsangpo as having “a capacity nearly half as large as the UK’s national grid.”

The Zhangmu and Yarlung Tsangpo facilities are ostensibly intended to provide only power for China and not to divert water.  However, some downstream users in both India and Bangladesh are apprehensive that the waters of the Brahmaputra – currently used for agriculture and navigation – will be diverted permanently out of the system.  The Chinese government has insisted, however, that these dams will be used only for hydropower, and not for water supply storage and not for eventual diversion.

Even if the water is used solely for hydropower purposes, given the size of some of these facilities, the timing of dam releases will be of critical importance for downstream agricultural users.  Similar to the Mekong and Indus Rivers – if adequate flows are not released during the dry seasons, the value of the water for downstream agricultural users drops significantly.  This is a very real and very serious issue with regards to dam operations.  While hydropower dams may not involve geographic water diversion – they can, and often have, involved what we refer to as ‘temporal diversion.’ Temporal diversion is the storage of water in impoundments whereby it is released downstream at a later point in time than would have occurred in the natural environment.  As a result, downstream ecosystems and users (irrigated agriculture, for example) are negatively – and potentially, severely, impacted.  For example, low dry season flow could lead to salt water intrusion through the deltas.  Given the vast numbers of people in northern India and Bangladesh that rely on the waters of the Brahmaputra River for agricultural purposes, the temporal diversion of its waters may cause as much social and economic havoc as geographic diversion.

Temporal diversion of waters need not be a necessary consequence of hydropower operations, however.  The monitoring, collection and sharing of flow data above and below dams can be used to help guide the operation of hydropower facilities so that they can simultaneously release water at the rates necessary to produce needed power, as well as serve the needs of downstream communities – even in the dry season.  This process of data collection and sharing is, of course, successfully facilitated through the framework of a transboundary agreement – in this case between China, India, and Bangladesh.  As noted below, however, such an agreement does not exist at this time.  As a result, the threat of temporal diversions with regards to dam construction on the Brahmaputra River remains a visceral threat that could become a significant source of regional instability under drought conditions.

The Chinese construction of these hydropower facilities must also be viewed in the context of regional geo-political competition between India and China.  As it develops economically, India also has sizable power needs.  The Guardian newspaper references a number of Chinese engineers who see the dam construction “as the ultimate goal in an accelerating race with India to develop water resources in one of the planet’s last remote regions.”1 India has responded by beginning the planning process for hydropower dam construction along its stretches of the Brahmaputra.  Jairam Ramesh, the Environment Minister for India is quoted in The Guardian: “India needs to be more aggressive in pushing ahead hydro projects [on the Brahmaputra]… That would put us in better negotiating position [with China]…”

No major international agreements exist for resolving and coordinating the use of the resources in the Brahmaputra River basin.

Ganges River

The Ganges River flows through India and into Bangladesh.  Its headwaters sit within India’s portion of the Himalayan Mountains.  Flowing in a southeasterly direction, it transverses northern India, enters Bangladesh where it ultimately joins with the Brahmaputra River in a great delta and empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Use of the Ganges River water resources by India and Bangladesh are currently governed under the 1996 Ganges Water Sharing Treaty.  While this agreement has resulted in improved coordination and use of Ganges waters, it succeeds a series of failed agreements between the two nations.  The primary point of contention between India and Bangladesh is the Indian diversion of water from the Ganges, resulting in damages to Bangladeshi agriculture, navigation, and public health.

In 1975, India completed construction of a dam and canal project, known as the Farakka diversion. The diversion is located in West Bengal, and sits only 10 km from Bangladesh. This project diverts flow from the Ganges system to the Bhagirathi-Hooghly River, which empties close to the Indian city and port of Calcutta.  The intent of the Farakka diversion was to increase flows in the Bhagirathi-Hooghly in order to keep the port open during the dry season, and to also keep the port functioning by flushing the harbor of silt deposits.

Bangladesh was opposed to the project even before it was completed.  Bangladeshi concerns – which ultimately proved valid – were that the reduced flow in the Ganges River would result in the negative impacts to fishing and navigation interests, and that salt-water intrusion into Bangladeshi agricultural areas would increase. This did, in fact, play out. In addition, Bangladesh has suffered human health impacts as a result of decreased fresh water flows.  In addition, Bangladeshi migration to India has increased since 1975, in part because of the decreased economic opportunities that resulted as a function of the diversion.

Between 1975 and 1996, India and Bangladesh signed a series of water-sharing agreements to govern and coordinate more adequately the diversion of Ganges River water. Most of these were short-term agreements, however.  Invariably, as soon as the terms of the agreements were complete, India would unilaterally reduce flows again.  Understandably, this raised tensions between the neighboring countries.

The Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, signed in 1996, has proved to be a more sustainable and successful framework document for Ganges River water resource governance than earlier iterations.  First, the agreement is intended to last 30 years – significantly longer than earlier agreements.3 This provides a sense of surety and predictability – especially to Bangladesh, the downstream user.  The agreement also has a number of important triggers that govern when and under what conditions water will and will not be diverted from the Ganges. In general terms, the treaty guarantees Bangladesh dry season (January-May) flows.  In more specific terms: below certain flow rates, Bangladesh and India will share half of the water; if the flow is above a certain level, Bangladesh is guaranteed a minimum flow; and if the flow exceeds a higher, identified level, India will withdraw a defined amount and Bangladesh will receive the balance of the flow.  Significantly – and as a foundational element of the treaty – the agreement recognizes Bangladesh’s right as a lower riparian user under international law. This results in an obligation for Bangladesh to receive an equitable share of existing flow.

While the 1996 Ganges Water Sharing Treaty has been successful at coordinating the use of Ganges River water resources – and, significantly, in reducing tensions between India and Bangladesh – issues do remain.  Chief amongst these are the provision and perceived reliability of data. India does not provide its river flow data to Bangladesh, and hence the only upstream information Bangladesh has is from flow meters near the border.  This makes water resource management decisions more difficult – and sustains uncertainty for water users.

JC comments:   Here are some other articles related to hydropower from my file, that may be of interest:

The utility of hydropower, and its adverse impacts, vary widely with geographic region, river structure and streamflow, as well as societal infrastructures.  The unintended, adverse consequences of hydropower can be large, and the circum Himalayan rivers originating in Tibet are of particular environmental and geopolitical concern.

This is a topic that I would like to learn more about, I look forward to hearing from those of you with expertise in this area and also experiences with hydropower from other countries.  My personal research interest in hydropower is in providing probabilistic forecasts of streamflow and hydropower, we are currently providing such forecasts for the Columbia River Basin in NW U.S.   My company CFAN provides forecasts are used by natural gas traders, to anticipate market demand relative to hydropower variations.

247 responses to “Impacts of China’s hydropower boom

  1. Reviewable resources.
    ============

    • Warmists would prefer us to burn trees.

      • Why can’t we burn warmists?

      • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

        Alex M asks:

        “Why can’t we burn warmists?”
        _______
        I am surprised that Judith allowed this through. But since she did not, then an answer is appropriate: From a purely scientific perspective, you can burn warmists- as humans are quite flammable and burn readily with the right initial combustion. You can also burn skeptics. The larger question would be– why would you think of this? Or what has so corrupted your memeplex that you’d think of the same thing that other nefarious groups have thought of through the ages?

    • Walter Carlson

      As long as China is moving to diminish it’s carbon footprint, who cares??

      • Who cares? The Greens. There is a long(ish) history of dam bashing within the enviro movement. These large engineering projects are the perfect manifestation of the ‘rape’ of nature by modern, industrial society. Killing these project through pressure on the World Bank has stymied many projects in the developing world. As Lewis shows here best just to dismiss any positive for the wider Chinese society.

        It’s all a perfect example (along with nuclear energy) of the fact that it isn’t really about carbon footprints or sustainability, for a large section of the Green movement it’s about their disgust of modern human society and a deep held misanthropy!

      • But I don’t hear much against Hydro-Quebec, for all its eco-destruction.

  2. “Increase chances of earthquakes?” Seriously?

    • Certainly. The rock of which the Earth’s surface is made is somewhat plastic, and can and will deform in response to changes in overburden.
      When the stress exceeds the plasticity, it breaks. Earthquakes are a common result of erosion, which removes overburden from higher ground and deposits it on lower. Glaciation and de-glaciation also produce earthquakes. Draining and creating large lakes also. And dams usually create lakes that are large enough.

      • So why hasn’t that happened to the Grand Coulee?

      • I think it is wrong to say it increases the chance. It shifts the timing of earthquakes that would have happened anyway. Same number, different time. Perhaps a higher frequency of small quakes relative to fewer bigger ones, but I am speculating.

      • Well, the effect on probability and timing are probably both dependent on local conditions. But sudden changes to the overburden have a strong likelihood of triggering an earthquake that’s already set to happen. Whether this applies to earthquakes likely to happen in the next 10, as opposed to 1000, years would, again, probably depend on local conditions.

        Certainly a blanket refusal to consider the risks wouldn’t be justified. But also, a blanket opposition to taking the action without considering the risk wouldn’t be justified. Such opposition is typical of many Western “environmental” groups: “Not Opposition to Blind Progress, but Blind Opposition to Progress”. I suppose it’s cosmic justice that the Red Chinese, who probably helped establish Western “environmentalism” as such a destructive factor in society, should now find themselves under attack by the same sort of philosophy.

        Lewis’s point about corruption in Chinese society is well taken, however.

  3. What is progress, creating a lake or simply believe, “Dams themselves may cause quakes,” and pay the police to let nothing happen.

  4. David Springer

    What load of crap.

    • Specifics, please.

      • David Springer

        The government declares that such dams are safe, avoid pollution, address future climate change, control floods and droughts, and enhance human life.

        These assertions are largely untrue.

        The last line is crap then there’s a huge stinking pile of crap attempting to support it.

        Dams provide flood control and that’s safer than no flood control dams so point one is largely true not largely untrue.

        Dams avoid the pollution of coal plants. The carbon locked up in ground vegetation becomes carbon locked up water plants. Different sequestration but same amount of sequestration. So the second point is largely if not entirely true.

        Addressing future climate change is largely untrue. Humanity isn’t changing the climate so this by definition doesn’t change it either. Doddering dimbulb Charlton Lewis managed to get one thing right but for the wrong reason.

        Control floods and droughts is largely true. I live on the shore of a large flood control reservoir in south central Texas. It does exactly what is expected and claimed of it. Downtown Austin would have been washed away several times over during the past 50 years when major rain events happen and there’s no doubt the full reservoir has helped supply water to the city and downstream users in the past few years of well below average rainfall. They would be parched otherwise.

        The last point is largely true for all the reasons above (accept addressing climate change because anthropogenic climate change is bullshhit to begin with) with additional reasons such as creating jobs during their construction, providing power for industry and hospitals during their long lifetime, and enabling greater more reliable agricultural output.

        Charlton Lewis is a fool or a fraud. Probably both and is so full of crap it spills out the wrong end of him.

      • David Springer

        The government declares that such dams are safe, avoid pollution, address future climate change, control floods and droughts, and enhance human life.

        These assertions are largely untrue.

        The last line is crap then there’s a huge stinking pile of crap attempting to support it.

        Dams provide flood control and that’s safer than no flood control dams so point one is largely true not largely untrue.

        Dams avoid the pollution of coal plants. The carbon locked up in ground vegetation becomes carbon locked up water plants. Different sequestration but same amount of sequestration. So the second point is largely if not entirely true.

        Addressing future climate change is largely untrue. Humanity isn’t changing the climate so this by definition doesn’t change it either. Doddering dimbulb Charlton Lewis managed to get one thing right but for the wrong reason.

        Control floods and droughts is largely true. I live on the shore of a large flood control reservoir in south central Texas. It does exactly what is expected and claimed of it. Downtown Austin would have been washed away several times over during the past 50 years when major rain events happen and there’s no doubt the full reservoir has helped supply water to the city and downstream users in the past few years of well below average rainfall. They would be parched otherwise.

        The last point is largely true for all the reasons above (accept addressing climate change because anthropogenic climate change is bullschist to begin with) with additional reasons such as creating jobs during their construction, providing power for industry and hospitals during their long lifetime, and enabling greater more reliable agricultural output.

      • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

        David Springer ignorantly said:

        “Humanity isn’t changing the climate.”

        —-
        Given that the biosphere has been affecting the climate for hundreds of millions of years and that humans now completely dominate the biosphere of planet Earth, your assertion is not logical based on fundamental principals.

      • David Springer

        Gates ignorantly claims that humans dominate the biosphere. Tell us Gates, how much of the earth’s surface have humans put impervious cover over? How much is devoted to agriculture and how much does agriculture change the climate vs. natural vegetation?

        LOL

      • David Springer

        Take a swim a mile offshore Gates and report back to us how much you dominate the ocean which covers 71% of the earth’s surface. You moron.

      • Dam idiots!

      • David: “… Humanity isn’t changing the climate…” is a quote directly from the denialosphere. In fact, CO2 levels have been rising, and unless there is a more credible source, humanity is responsible. So, if you would like to explain the CO2 increase since 1958, please provide peer-reviewed, credible sources. Thanks.

    • Yes. But I will fisk it anyhow:
      “While being touted for producing lower-emission electricity, these massive dam projects are wreaking havoc on river systems across China and Southeast Asia.”
      So, definition of touting is :
      1. attempt to sell (something), typically by pestering people in an aggressive or bold manner.
      “Jim was touting his wares”

      attempt to persuade people of the merits of (someone or something).
      “the headquarters facility was touted as the best in the country”
      synonyms: recommend, speak of, extol, advocate, talk of; More
      predict
      “she’s being touted as the next party leader”
      Brit.
      scalp (a ticket).
      synonyms: peddle, sell, hawk, offer for sale, promote More
      “street merchants were touting their wares”

      2. offer racing tips for a share of any resulting winnings.”
      It’s not touting as much as saying what is merely true.

      The only way to get lower emission is perhaps nuclear energy.
      Solar energy and wind mills are not in contention.
      There is no other know way to significantly lower CO2 emission other than
      nuclear energy or hydro power. Unless you willing to concede that evil “Big
      Oil” is actually a way to reduce CO2 as compared to every other thing
      promoted wacko greenies which are exclude hydro power.

      “The government declares that such dams are safe, avoid pollution, address future climate change, control floods and droughts, and enhance human life.

      These assertions are largely untrue.”

      No, there are obviously largely true.
      You would have to be uneducated idiot to think that hydro dams do not do this.

      “Since the 1950s the Chinese have built some 22,000 dams more than 15 meters tall, roughly half the world’s current total. ”

      Environmentalist have *touted* the value of smaller dams:
      http://www.lenntech.com/small-community-water-supplies.htm
      http://www.samsamwater.com/library/Book4_Water_from_Small_Dams.pdf

      A significant aspect of dam 15 meters or higher is they require
      engineers.

      Though it has been falsely claimed that China graduates a lot of Engineers, this article clarifies it:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/19/AR2006051901760.html
      “After an exhaustive study, researchers at Duke University also pummeled the numbers. In a December 2005 analysis, “Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate,” they reported that the United States annually produces 137,437 engineers with at least a bachelor’s degree while India produces 112,000 and China 351,537. That’s more U.S. degrees per million residents than in either other nation. ”
      So whereas US may or may not have enough engineers, China has enough Engineers to make large number of dams.
      So large population, large country and a large number engineers, one expect China to be able to make a large number dams recently- unlike US or Europe which made a lot of dams prior to 1950.

      And to follow it with:
      “During the 1990s, as economic growth surged and air pollution spurred the need for clean energy, they turned increasingly to huge mega-dams.”
      A 15 meter dam is by no definition a mega-dam. Rather It’s “mega” only in sense that it’s bigger than dams generally made by non-engineers.
      Such as dirt dams for goats. Or it would be a “mega” beaver dam.
      So, I will quote whole thing:
      “Since the 1950s the Chinese have built some 22,000 dams more than 15 meters tall, roughly half the world’s current total. During the 1990s, as economic growth surged and air pollution spurred the need for clean energy, they turned increasingly to huge mega-dams.”

      “Dams themselves may cause quakes.
      ….
      Since then, more than 50 studies have found evidence that the reservoir triggered small quakes through the fault system, culminating in the large quake.”
      So, there is more 50 idiots available in the world, impressive.

      So in addition to dams, we suppose to be against lakes and reservoir?
      Down with ponds in parks! Should the State “with 10,000 lakes”, drain them?
      What about lakes under the surface, called aquifers.
      Should be concerned if aquifers are filling up? I thought we worrying about them lowering. Anyhow, how impressive is 50 studies?
      No doubt a groupthink of 1000 would more convincing, but still 50 is more than 2.
      Next:
      “Although hydroelectric dams produce considerably fewer carbon emissions than coal-fired power plants, China’s assertions that dams provide clean energy are substantially untrue. The rotting of inundated trees and vegetation in reservoirs emits the greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide and methane, that rise from reservoir surfaces. Over a projected lifetime of a dam in temperate regions, emissions could be from roughly one-third to nearly two-thirds that of a natural gas plant.”

      Well that means a lot. Some undefined body of water can make 2/3 of either CO2 or methane as some undefined natural gas plant.
      Impressive.
      The next one is more evidence of particular genius:
      “Nor do big dams protect from floods and droughts. They store water during the wet season and release it during the dry season, thus reversing the natural flow of rivers.”
      Yes by as said by “reversing the natural flow of rivers” [if you want speak like idiot] it “protect” or provides water during droughts.
      It continues:
      “Deprived of their annual inundations, downstream marshes, lakes, and wetlands dry out and can no longer absorb floodwaters.”
      Well, first the water is being stored at higher elevation, which means you don’t to waste energy pumping up hill.
      Marshes aren’t available water. So having a drought and even having a “full swamp” is not helping anyone, but of course during a drought the marshes/swamps/lakes will also dry out- with dam or without one.
      Dams do provide an opportunity for managers to mismanage, as road will allow someone to crash into a wall at 60 mph. But it’s not a problem of the dams or roads. Dams could provide enough water for some marsh or lake assuming this was desired. meaning, it’s actually priority over other needs.
      Or China is totalitarian state, whether policy regarding marshes are important is rather insignificant compared all the other things they are screwing up. What about the massive air pollution? If don’t have as many hydro dams, and you will only get more air pollution.

      “During the record-breaking summer flood of 2010, the Three Gorges reservoir rose to 12 meters above “alarm level.” To protect the dam, its operators opened the floodgates to the maximum. Downstream some 968 people were killed, 507 more were missing and economic losses totaled $26 billion.”

      As compared to say +10,000 of people getting killed and having little of value to destroy. Shocking numbers of people dying, but China with a lower population in past has had that river flooding killing more people.
      That the Chinese actually bother to get some accurate number of the dead is a vast improvement.

      “Dams also pollute. Their reservoirs capture chemicals, fertilizer runoff, human waste and all kinds of trash. During the 2010 flood, floating refuse backed up behind the Three Gorges Dam over an area of more than 50,000 square meters, so thick, according to the Hubei Daily “that people can literally walk on the water’s surface.”

      So you say something the size of 10 football fields or 1/20th of square km.
      With reservoir being 1,045 square km in total area.
      What is to problem is suppose to go out into the ocean or scatter along the river banks downstream?
      So Three Gorges Dam, “contains 39.3 cubic km”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam
      And:
      “Three Gorges reduces coal consumption by 31 million tonnes per year, avoiding 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions”

      Let’s stack 31 million tonnes coal on area 50,000 square meter.
      We consider coal to having same density water. So 31 million divided by
      50,000 is 620 meters. The pile of coal would be 50,000 square meters
      by 600 meters high. And Empire State building’s pointy top is 443.2 meters high.
      And the 50,000 square meters of “that people can literally walk on the water’s surface.” Is say 25,000 cubic meters, or it per 25 ppm in a cubic
      km of water. So far less than the impurity of CO2 in Earth atmosphere in 1 cubic km or water and in the whole lake far less than impurity of Methane in Earth atmosphere.
      It sounds like mostly wood- dead trees, pieces docks, sheds, boats, and whatever- as this kind of stuff floats.
      So about as exciting as pile of driftwood.Though perhaps some outhouses are involved.
      We live in world where one can actually get measurement instead discussing news reports of flotsam and jetsam.

      I am bored already

      • You are correct.

      • One of the aspects of real megadams is that at the front of the dam the water is so pure that it is almost sterile. At the University of South Carolina, they did a study in the 70′s that showed that the flooded acreage increased the total area wetlands, and the wetlands were more diverse. Also, the shallow areas purified pollutants over a large area tending to mitigate their effects. The wetlands also tended to become swamps and eventually it was proposed that they could be used for a variety of agriculture with basin level management.

        A more modern study of the usefulness of a hydraulic energy/agriculture/ aquaculture was by Koutsoyiannis’s group.

  5. Maybe Hansen can go picket the home of Xi Jinping, chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. Or maybe chain himself to a tree in one of the areas about to be flooded.

    So what if hundreds of millions of Chinese live in abject poverty? (Don’t worry, only 128 million are living below the “poverty line”, defined by their beneficent socialist leaders as $1.00 per day.) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/30/china-raises-rural-poverty-line

    What matters is how over paid, over educated western elitists feel about the “environment” as they waste massive amounts of taxpayers’ money funding their climate “research”.

  6. The article is more than a little alarmist. Hydropower has been a source of power for a long time, in many countries. There can be problems, but it is foolish to try and generalize from particular situations. Yes the silting of the Aswan High Dam has had consequences in the flooding of the Nile Delta (since the silt no longer reaches there), but these costs are balanced and overtaken by the benefits that the power produced (and water flood control) that the dams provide. In general there are highly detailed geological surveys before dams are built to ensure that water does not migrate into the rock around the dam, thereby threatening its stability. (This can also be indirect as in the landslide into the waters behind the Vaiont Dam). Where necessary the ground is grouted to ensure that the rock is sealed. Thus the likelihood of water being at sufficient pressure to induce earthquakes – which requires that the ground already be stresses, is low and localized.

    The Galloway Hydro System has performed without many problems (apart from wetting my pants ) as but one of many examples around the world. Obviously, as the recent experience in Australia showed, in times of very heavy rains the dam cannot hold all the water, but it can, when and if the discharges are properly controlled, reduce the amount of damage that the flooding would cause.

    • Yes, Charlton Lewis’s contribution feels alarmist, covering as it does only the negatives. On earthquakes: one would expect that a dam, like fracking, would typically replace infrequent natural earthquakes with more frequent smaller quakes. Generally, that would be a net benefit. Well-managed (not a given!) dams have many possible benefits, for example electricity generation, irrigation, aquaculture, water supply, amenity, flood control, but the article gives the strong impression that the author cares nothing for any of this, but only for scare-mongering over a single feature, and one that is not necessarily even a net negative.

  7. Hydro’s are being decommissioned – I’m thinking Enviro-Nazis are behind it but don’t have time to do the research.

    http://www.hydroreform.org/news/hrcnews/tag/decommissioning

    Ironically, they cite CO2 as a problem with hydro. These people wont’ be happy until the Earth’s population (of humans) is on million and even then they would be living in caves.

    “Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from hydroelectric dams are often portrayed as nonexistent by the hydropower industry and have been largely ignored in global comparisons of different sources of electricity. However, the life cycle assessment (LCA)of any hydroelectric plant shows that GHG emissions occur at different phases of the power plant’s life. This work examines the role of decommissioning hydroelectric dams in greenhouse gas emissions. Accumulated sediments in reservoirs contain noticeable levels of carbon, which may be released to the atmosphere upon decommissioning of the dam. The rate of sediment accumulation and the sediment volume for six of the ten largest United States hydroelectric power plants is surveyed. The amount of sediments and the respective carbon content at the moment of dam decommissioning (100 years after construction) was estimated. The released carbon is partitioned into CO2 and CH4 emissions and converted toCO2 equivalent emissions using the global warming potential (GWP) method. The global warming effect (GWE) due to dam decommissioning is normalized to the total electricityproduced over the lifetime of each power plant. The estimated GWE of the power plants range from 128-380 g of CO2eq./kWh when 11% of the total available sediment organic carbon (SOC) is mineralized and between 35 and 104 g of CO2eq./kWh when 3% of the total SOC is mineralized. Though these values are below emission factors for coal power plants (890 g of CO2eq./kWh), the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the sediments upon dam decommissioning is a notable amount that should not be ignored and must be taken into account when considering construction and relicensing of hydroelectric dams”

  8. interesting post. remarkably free from partisanship and hyperbole. thanks.

    One question – w/r/t the discussion of decaying trees…wouldn’t those same trees create the same emissions regardless, albeit over a longer time frame? not that the answer would really significantly refute the article’s thesis.

  9. The Charlton Lewis item appears to be environmentally against any energy solution China has. On the one hand, coal-burning leads to obvious pollution and GHG issues, but on the other, hydro also leads to environmental problems. No solutions are offered for China’s increasing energy demand. Wind/solar/nuclear? I actually think hydro is a good route if you have that option. It can also alleviate downstream dry seasons with considerate management.

  10. Dams are ecosystem destroying evaporation tanks.
    Lets remove them ASAP.
    The Snake would be a good place to start.

  11. So, the AGW crowd don’t want the Chinese to use coal, or natural gas, or nuclear, or hydroelectric power, and wind and solar can not provide them enough, so what is the AGW solution? More and more, they look like nut cases.

    • They are nut cases.

      • More precisely, they have a bill of grievances with no workable solutions. Workable solutions are somebody else’ problem. Kind of like a certain website that’s been in the news lately.

      • Workable solutions are fer them as wants things ter work
        fer human -kind, non workable conclusions fer them who
        believe human kind should return ter a ‘golden’ age of
        of tribalism and periods of famine.
        bts

    • not only that, they insult people by calling them ‘denier.’ don’t ya just immediateky dismiss people who resort to insulting? i hate it when hat happens.

      • There is always a faction in the AGW Cult that opposes specific solutions proposed, therefore effectively the AGW Cult is against every solution.

        Until the AGW Cult speaks with one voice and admits they want us all to go back to the stone age (except for cult leaders and priests) they should shut the frack up.

      • I predict a split between the consensus scientists and pure environmentalists on this issue, because most scientists have enough understanding of the issue to know that nuclear power is a viable alternative that can supply power cheaply and reliably without carbon. We also know that the fossil fuel industry is opposed to nuclear power and will side with the environmentalists on this issue. It will be an interesting dynamic.

      • I predict “environmentalists” will be against everything. They will hate fracking most because fracking gives cheap heat and power to the poor and the AGW Cult hates the poor and elderly.

      • All the fracking natural gas reserves in the US only add about 2 ppm when they have been burned, so it is a non-issue compared to other sources, plus it is relatively clean, so I support it.

      • Jim D,

        because most scientists have enough understanding of the issue to know that nuclear power is a viable alternative that can supply power cheaply and reliably without carbon.

        I’d like to see some evidence to support that assertion. My experience is that your assertion is wrong by a country mile. Firstly, most scientists have little more of an understanding about nuclear power than the general public. They have the same irrational fears of nuclear power as the general public. In Australia the vast majority of climate scientists are of strongly left/’progressive’/socialist ideological persuasion and are strongly anti-nuclear.

      • Peter Lang, the reason I say that is that for climate scientists it is all about the CO2 effect on climate. When it comes to choose, they see that this is the bigger issue for the future, because it leads to more certain hardships that nuclear power relieves. However, it is true that nuclear power safety needs selling to the general public in most countries, and the fossil fuel industry won’t make it easy. So far, we have seen four leading climate scientists come out in favor, and none against. I think it is a litmus test for true AGW concern.

      • Jim D,

        Peter Lang, the reason I say that is that for climate scientists it is all about the CO2 effect on climate. When it comes to choose, they see that this is the bigger issue for the future, because it leads to more certain hardships that nuclear power relieves.

        That is what you’d like to think, but it is not the case. Not even close.

      • Jim D

        Yep.

        “Some of the ‘AGW crowd’ support nuclear”.

        But a whole bunch do not (check out WWF and Greenpeace).

        And a lot are against new hydroelectric power, as well, as this post shows.

        Most are still hung up with the idea that wind and solar (and “lifestyle changes”) can cover the future energy needs without added CO2.

        But this is a pipe dream.

        Until a new economically viable source of reliable, low-cost energy comes along, we are stuck with fossil fuels, nuclear or (in some special cases) hydroelectric power.

        Take your pick.

        Max

      • manacker, this is why I distinguish climate scientists, who are more pragmatic about what to do, and what will work.

    • The level of truth in this article from “the Onion” [America's Finest News Source] (C) (TM) with respect to the radical enviros is depressing: http://www.theonion.com/articles/scientists-look-onethird-of-the-human-race-has-to,27166/

  12. One other fact to consider about hydropower – it makes a great backup for unreliables – I mean renewables – like wind and solar, since the stored water in the reservoir is essentially stored energy. The only way to make wind not require carbon intensive backup generation is to have a significant hydro component to the mix. Nuke can only baseload. Hydro can be tapped on demand.

    • Hydro is at the mercy of drought cycles. Using hydro for pumped storage is very expensive.

      • sunshinehours1 wrote, “Using hydro for pumped storage is very expensive.”

        Taking into account evaporation losses from the exposed water surface and conversion losses, approximately 70% to 85% of the electrical energy used to pump the water into the elevated reservoir can be regained.[6] The technique is currently the most cost-effective means of storing large amounts of electrical energy on an operating basis, but capital costs and the presence of appropriate geography are critical decision factors.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

      • Depends. Small scale hydro, yes. Large scale, no. The Chinese megaprojects described in this thread are generally large scale.

        And no, this isn’t ‘pumped storage’. This is deferred harvest, which is considerable more efficient.

      • Speed, no one builds pumped storage in the US anymore, and they have not for a long, long time.

        Capital costs are too high, it takes forever to build, and greenies hate dams.

        Natural gas is used to level out power demand/supply because it is way, way cheaper.

      • Regarding evaporation, it seems likely the Chinese will grow Azolla on their reservoirs. According to one source

        The Institute of Soils and Fertilizers (China) also reported that growth of azolla reduced evaporation by 11% and water salt content by 0.012-0.049%. (Lumpkin and Plucknett, 1980)

  13. The Chinese do seem to have a tendency to over do things. What would be fun would be to start a
    Minto Wheel alternate energy just to see if the Chinese try to out do the ROW. It is after all Mother Earth magazine approved.

    They would probably respond with the drinking bird heat recovery program.
    which would prompt the EPA to ban Methylene Chloride and felt.

  14. R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

    An interesting article and important topic. Trying to understand how stream flows will be impacted by a changing climate in the future (regardless of cause) has relevancy to the lives of potentially hundreds of millions if not billions of people.

  15. Matthew R Marler

    Instead, China’s mega-dams block the flow of rivers, increase the chances of earthquakes, destroy precious environments and shatter the lives of millions of people.

    Millions of people have been forced to relocate. Millions more of people who would have died in the floods have had their lives saved. To me, that has been at least as valuable as the electricity that has been produced.

    As to earthquakes, the current “consensus” is that earthquakes are caused by the forces that force the gigantic plates, aka “tecta” to move. Those forces are vastly greater than the forces induced by water accumulating in dams. At most the water in the dams might make the earthquakes a little more frequent and a little smaller, but they make a negligible change to the accumulated energy expressed over the span of decades.

    Unless, of course, you think that earthquakes “associated with” dams (and ignoring the others that continue to occur with the usual frequency and intensity in places without dams) are sufficient to challenge the “consensus” (aka “orthodoxy’”) about plate tectonics.

    Of course the dams change the ecology: Imperial Valley and other places from Phoenix to San Diego and Los Angeles are green because the Colorado River estuary has been turned into a desert. Changing the ecology is the point, or as some might say, part of the “price”. Whatever parts of the ecology of the TVA watersheds were flood-dependent are pretty much gone: thousands of dams from New York down to Alabama reduce the annual flooding that used to occur.

    That article is most timely, and it looks quite thorough. The issues of where, when, and whether to build dams and irrigation systems, and how best to build them, are worthy of continuous debate. The lock,dam and levee system on the Mississippi River protects cropland and infrastructure from flooding most years, but permits lower total water flow in some years to produce great flooding, compared to before the construction. In most places along the river banks most people think that the trade-off has been favorable — yet gross imperfections remain, such as people who repeatedly build housing in the flood plains.

    In Central California, orchards of fruits and nuts thrived (and some still do) where the delta snail darter has become much less common; in order to restore the snail darter, some of those orchards have been killed or nearly killed. In monetary terms, meaning the livelihoods of people in the area, the orchards were worth lots more than the fish, but the political decision was made to sacrifice the trees to the fish, reversing the earlier decision to sacrifice the fish to the trees.

    Examples like this abound. China and the US are examples of how dam and irrigation systems, with and without hydropower, can protect human lives and promote considerable prosperity; but they also have costs to consider. It’s a rather banal thought, that goods have costs; but preserving the natural ecologies also has costs.

    To Professor Curry, thank you again for a good post.

    • How much of what’s grown in CA could be grown elsewhere–were not CA agriculture subsidized? By the Bureau of Reclamation, etc.? Answer: quite a bit. Certainly CA is not that only state that can grow fruit & vegetables–it’s possible in the majority of the states.

      • Matthew R Marler

        azure: How much of what’s grown in CA could be grown elsewhere–were not CA agriculture subsidized?

        Oh, yes. All the work that is actually done somewhere with some financing could in principle be done somewhere else with some other financing. Equally, San Francisco could have gotten its water from someplace other than Hetch Hetchy, and there is a proposal to remove the dam and build reservoirs somewhere else to furnish the water. However you think about it, all the costs and benefits of any water project should be considered.

    • China’s a big place. It’s also complex. Considering hydropower alone, without looking at the other factors affecting China’s options for both power and water can lead you astray rather quickly.

      The north of China is both arid and overpopulated. They need water so much they are building their second set of grand canals to bring water from the south. They need to regulate their water supply. China cannot even realistically consider fracking their considerable reserves of natural gas because they cannot at present spare the water.

      China has always forced people to move from their homes in large numbres–for thousands of years–and this has not stopped since 1949. Displacing people for dam reservoirs and downstream changing is just the latest reason for doing so. This is amplified by the voluntary in-migration of about 22 million people a year from farm to city.

      In addition, the construction of large dams is now a major source of income for Chinese companies, many state owned. In addition to the dams China is building in their own country, they are building large dams in other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, all regions with a real need for inexpensive energy.

      China’s GDP per person in 2012 was just over $6,000, according to the IMF. Although their primary energy consumption has increased by an average of 8.8% annually over the last decade to a total of 100 quads plus per year, spread out over their large population that amounts to 71 mbtus per person, about 20% of American per capita consumption. As China continues to develop, they will demand American levels of energy provision. If the current government wants to stay in power they will have to provide it.

      China needs the energy hydropower provides and they are willing to live with the environmental concerns it brings. Even with their expanded nuclear power program, projected to bring about 2 new plants on line per year through 2050, they need hyrdo. They have to move away from coal. It is killing 10 times as many Chinese people as would the very real dangers from hydropower.

      The real problem with Chinese hydropower expansion is the poor quality of construction. Engineers here in China shudder privately when discussing this issue. There will be dam collapses and many will die. It will be hard for China to maintain their pragmatic stoicism in the face of a large scale dam collapse and the resulting loss of life.

      But, as noted by commenters above, China doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of alternatives. Lack of energy kills just as surely, if invisibly.

      • Hydraulic fracturing doesn’t require the use of fresh water. The viscosifying chemicals do work better in fresh water but there are chemicals which work in salt water. It’s also possible to perform the fracture using gelled hydrocarbons. Finally there are treatment plants which can treat the flow back water so most of it can be reused. I expect that if the shales are productive china will proceed to produce its shale gas.

  16. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Global extinctions, global toxins, and global climate-change,  … these raise difficult questions:

    FOMD asks  “Is it OK for temperate-latitude dwellers to simply turn a blind eye; thus embracing:
    The Denialist Creed  “We have the wealth, we have the power, for us these tough problems [of global extinctions, global toxins, and global climate-change] are not immediate, local, and acute, and so we needn’t care. Moreover, in order to think well of ourselves, and in order to excuse our willful ignorance and selfish short-sightedness, we’ll adamantly deny the scientific reality of these problems!”

    The world (quite properly!) wonders about these issues, eh AK … Beth Cooper … Bob Ludwick … DocMartyn … Faustino … GaryM … Girma … Jim Cripwell … jim2 … kim … maksimovich … Matthew R Marler … Mike Flynn … Peter Lang … stevepostrel … Wagathon …  … and many other one-note voices of Climate Etc’s denialist chorus?

    A tough question  What is forever-lost worth of China’s now-departed baiji? Must all citizens accept just one valuation of the baiji?

    Science-related commentary especially is welcomed!

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    • Matthew R Marler

      A fan of *MORE* discourse: and many other one-note voices of Climate Etc’s denialist chorus?

      Not to get too personal, but whenever I and others point to the evidentiary limitations of the mostly idiotic links you provide, you almost never respond with more information. Do you really not understand that there are “flaws” in the case that CO2 plays a major role in climate change; or that there are “flaws” in the case that reductions in fossil fuel use will affect climate change?

      A tough question What is forever-lost worth of China’s now-departed baiji? Must all citizens accept just one valuation of the baiji?

      It might be a tough question. How about complementary questions: What is the value of what has been built? Are the human constructions of the past, usually made with the best technology of the time, inherently more worthy than the human constructions of the present, built with the best technology of the time? Consider the temples buried under the water behind the Three Gorges Dam: China can have the temples, or the dam, but not both. There may be many valuations of this and that, but only one alternative can be chosen.

      • There are underwater villages in Italy that are scuba diving attractions now. Life goes on.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse
        FOMD posted:

        The Denialist Creed–I  “We have the wealth, we have the power, for us these tough problems [of global extinctions, global toxins, and global climate-change] are not immediate, local, and acute, and so we needn’t care. Moreover, in order to think well of ourselves, and in order to excuse our willful ignorance and selfish short-sightedness, we’ll adamantly deny the scientific reality of these problems!”

        The Denialist Creed;–II  “The likelihood that James Hansen’s climate-change worldview is broadly correct is either undefined or negligibly small, but in any event, this likelihood is not appreciable and therefore no serious analysis of this likelihood need be undertaken.

        Harold remarks  “There are underwater villages in Italy that are scuba diving attractions now. Life goes on.”

        The Denialist Creed–III  Always look on the bright side of life!

        Thank you for helping to clarify, for Climate Etc readers, yet another key element of The Denialist Creed, Harold!

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    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Matthew R Marler asserts “There are “flaws” in the case that CO2 plays a major role in climate change; [and] there are “flaws” in the case that reductions in fossil fuel use will affect climate change.”

      Aren’t you denial-dodging some tough-but-fair questions, Matthew R Marler?

      A tough question  What is the likelihood that Hansen’s climate-change worldview is broadly correct?

      The Denialist Creed – I “We have the wealth, we have the power, for us these tough problems [of global extinctions, global toxins, and global climate-change] are not immediate, local, and acute, and so we needn’t care. Moreover, in order to think well of ourselves, and in order to excuse our willful ignorance and selfish short-sightedness, we’ll adamantly deny the scientific reality of these problems!”

      The Denialist Creed – II “The likelihood that James Hansen’s climate-change worldview is broadly correct is either undefined or negligibly small, but in any event is *not* this likelihood is not appreciable, and therefore no serious analysis of this likelihood need be undertaken.

      Thank you for helping to clarify additional elements of The Denialist Creed, Matthew R Marler!

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      • Matthew R Marler

        A fan of *MORE* discourse: Hansen’s climate-change worldview is broadly correct?

        Since you are into “clarifying”, would you care to clarify “broadly”? Hansen’s claim that CO2 increase implies creating areas of permanent drought is without any basis in science, and his worry about the freeways of Manhattan Island being covered in water is certainly overwrought. Also, his grandchildren need not share his worries for them. The warming that he predicted for the early 21st century has not happened.

        “Broadly” speaking, I surely would never deny that climate change happens.

      • Matthew R Marler

        A fan of *MORE* discourse: Aren’t you denial-dodging some tough-but-fair questions, Matthew R Marler?

        I might pose the same question to you: are you not evading the possibility that the dam, lake, hydropower and irrigation systems have great value? The Three Gorges Dam itself has a power output close to 1/4 the total electric power consumption of California. You wouldn’t “deny” (so to speak) the value of that electricity, would you? To Californians it is worth at least $0.12 per kilowatt-hour. (that’s the amount the pay — I think they value it more highly.)

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        It is my great dam pleasure to answer your great dam questions, Matthew R Marler!

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    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Matthew R Marler emotes “Since you are into “clarifying”, would you care to clarify “broadly”?

      Hansen’s claim that CO2 increase implies creating areas of permanent drought is  without any  has substantial basis in science, and his worry about the freeways of Manhattan Island being covered in water is certainly  overwrought  quoted out-of-context by denialists. Also, Hansen’s grandchildren  need not  have good reason to share his worries for them. The warming that Hansen predicted for the early 21st century has  not  definitely happened.”

      Denialist memes by Matthew R Marler, “best available science” by FOMD!

      Thank you for requesting these scientific clarifications, Matthew R Marler!

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      • FOMD quoted paper extract says, in part: “It is shown that the anthropogenic carbon dioxide warming should emerge from the noise level of natural climate variability by the end of the century”.

        Such signal hasn’t emerged yet – even after giving an extra 50% on the time scale!

        Or how about this one: “Observed accelerating ice sheet mass loss supports our conclusion that Earth’s temperature now exceeds the mean Holocene value.”

        Heh – smaller ice cubes melt faster than larger ones even at the same ambient temperature (volume to surface area ratios and all that basic physics, eh FoMD?). Did the acceleration continue as the paper assumes? Oops!

      • Matthew R Marler

        A fan of *MORE* discourse, from the linked paper: The global warming projected for the next century is of almost unprecedented
        magnitude. On the basis of our model calculations, we estimate it to be
        - 2.5°C for a scenario with slow energy growth and a mixture of nonfossil and fossil fuels. This would exceed the temperature during the altithermal (6000 years ago) and the previous (Eemian) interglacial period 125,000 years ago (53), and would approach the warmth of
        the Mesozoic, the age of dinosaurs. Many caveats must accompany

        Even with the high energy growth scenario we have not seen the projected 0.33C increase since 2000. This development is “broadly” consistent with the projection if you give enough prominence to the “caveats” that are mentioned in the paper. I admit also that the looseness of “almost unprecedented” permits that what has happened is “broadly” consistent with his projection.

        From the abstract: Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climatic zones, e

        There isn’t any scientific basis for the claim of creation of dought-prone regions in North America; the fact that rainfall has increased slightly in the US is “broadly” consistent with his claim that it is only a “potential effect” in the first place.

        You take a Jeanne Dixon approach to evaluating Hansen: of the many claims he has made, some rather extreme, you select a few that have been only weakly disconfirmed, if interpreted “broadly”.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Matthew R Marler disparage’s Hansen’s 1981 prediction: “The global warming projected for the next [21st] century is of almost unprecedented magnitude. On the basis of our model calculations, we estimate it to be about 2.5°C for a scenario with slow energy growth and a mixture of nonfossil and fossil fuels.”

        We ain’t (yet) all that near to the end of the 21st century, are we Matthew R Marler? So your various criticisms haven’t much rational force, do they Matthew R Marler?

        Informed conclusion  Purely on the observational evidence, spanning the years 1981-present, Hansen’s climate-change model has performed pretty da*m well.

        A Key Question  What are the chances that Hansen’s updated climate-change worldview will perform comparably well for the remainder of the 21st century (and beyond)?

        What is your informed, rational opinion regarding this crucial, tough question, Matthew R Marler?

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      • Matthew R Marler

        A fan of *MORE* discourse: Hansen’s updated climate-change worldview

        You cited the 1981 paper and I quoted some propositions and showed how they have been disconfirmed to date. So now you are abandoning his 1981 propositions? You claimed that the world has behaved remarkably like his1981 propositions, but now you want to wait until 2100? But it all hinges on “broadly”.

      • This is a more precise depiction of Hansen’s 1981 prediction through 2010.
        http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/Hansen81ModelvsObs.jpg
        Not bad at all. Perhaps a little low, if anything.

      • JimD,
        Hansen’s 1981 prediction has a TCR of 2C and an ECS of 3C. If you read his 1981 paper, he carefully describes how the ocean sinks a significant portion of the heat that would otherwise go into surface heating.

        He also shows the Fickian trend of ocean warming that will take decades to asymptotically approach the ECS of 3C.

        As a comparison, the CSALT model lies right on top of Hansen’s predictions. This is a quick map I did against Hansen’s predictions and what CSALT estimates from 1880 onwards given the growth of CO2 plus the other thermodynamic (SALT) parameters.
        http://img577.imageshack.us/img577/438/c03.gif

        I may have started to look at climate science with a skeptical eye, but given how the data is panning out and how accurate the early predictions were, it is becoming very difficult to debunk the long-held 3C sensitivity.

        I don’t think it is our fault that we understand what Hansen and other climate scientists have been trying to say, while the deniers continue to flail away with their wrong-headed intuition.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I will repeat this. Using HadCRU4 – degrees C anomalies.

        year……..Temp anom
        1976…….-0.251
        1977……. 0.033
        1996……..0.142
        1998……..0.490

        Total warming in those 2 ENSO transition periods was 0.632 degrees C. The total warming is 0.741 degrees C. So some 85% of the total was ENSO just in those 2 periods.

        The warming between 1977 and 1996 is 0.109 degrees C – or about 0.054 degrees C/decade.

        More than half of that seems to be decadal variability.

        Here’s the model – that also suggests non-warming for a while yet. The theory of synchronous chaos is necessary for a proper understanding of the temperature trends.

        http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/rc_fig1_zpsf24786ae.jpg.html?sort=3&o=29

        http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/07/warminginterrupted-much-ado-about-natural-variability/

        ‘In summary, although there is independent evidence for decadal changes in TOA radiative fluxes over the last two decades, the evidence is equivocal. Changes in the planetary and tropical TOA radiative fluxes are consistent with independent global ocean heat-storage data, and are expected to be dominated by changes in cloud radiative forcing. To the extent that they are real, they may simply reflect natural low-frequency variability of the climate system.’ IPCC AR4 WG1 3.4.4.1

        Low frequency variability – of the decadal variety as well as longer term shifts – is the result of shifts in climate states in a dynamically complex system. And I won’t go into complexity theory here.

        Palle and Laken (2013) used both ISCCP-FD data and MODIS to produce a composite data series using cross calibration with sea surface temperature in the tropics.

        http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/cloud_palleandLaken2013_zps73c516f9.png.html?sort=3&o=36

        It shows decreasing cloud cover to late in the century and a step wise increase in the turn of the century climate shift. A shift that is also captured by Project Earthshine.

        The shifts are significant and the periods are not arbitrary. It is no coincidence that shifts in ocean and atmospheric indices occur at the same time as changes in the trajectory of global surface temperature. Our ‘interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,’ Tsonis said.

        Four multi-decadal climate shifts were identified in the last century coinciding with changes in the surface temperature trajectory. Warming from 1909 to the mid 1940’s, cooling to the late 1970’s, warming to 1998 and declining since. The shifts are punctuated by extreme El Niño Southern Oscillation events – these are dragon-kings in the terminology of Didier Sornette. Fluctuations between La Niña and El Niño peak at these times and climate then settles into a damped oscillation. Until the next critical climate threshold – due perhaps in a decade or two if the recent past is any indication.

      • Chef, The ocean temperature goes up and then it goes down. It’s not hard to understand. Fluctuations do not add to the trend. They just confuse people like you.

      • > Not bad at all. Perhaps a little low, if anything.

        Crickets.

      • Yes, they went away, as usual, just when I thought I answered the main question. Where’s the gratitude?

      • “This is a more precise depiction of Hansen’s 1981 prediction through 2010.
        http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/Hansen81ModelvsObs.jpg
        Not bad at all. Perhaps a little low, if anything.”

        baselined incorrectly. nice try.

      • The baseline was 1971-91 and doesn’t affect the gradient anyway.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I have numbers – refute them. I have a sanity check. There is a theory of synchronous chaos that explains the data better than anything else – and that has immense predictive power not merely today but over the past decade since the predictions were made.

        You pretty much strike out – webnutcolonoscope – on all counts. Especially sanity.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Hugely funny – I quote the IPCC – obviously they are not part of the consensus. Try new data – new science – new paradigms instead of insisting that a 30 year old paper got it right. It did not.

      • Chef, all you do is eyeball stuff. That and you quote-mine and put it through a cherry-picker filter.

        Hansen does the heavy-lifting predictions, spot-on for a TCR=2C and ECS=3C.

        Check it out:
        http://entroplet.com/context_salt_model/navigate

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Michael Ghil is far closer to the mark.

        Climate sensitivity is λ in the linked diagram.

        http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/Ghil_fig11_zpse58189d9.png.html?sort=3&o=19

        http://www.atmos.ucla.edu/tcd/PREPRINTS/Math_clim-Taipei-M_Ghil_vf.pdf

        Predicting climate with one line of algebra on a loser blog – priceless.

      • “Jim D | November 10, 2013 at 12:32 am |
        The baseline was 1971-91 and doesn’t affect the gradient anyway.”

        simple then, pick the right baseline and replot it.

        That said, callendars 1938 model does better, although its ecs is below 2 and hansens was 2.8.

        comes the question , if hansens 2.8 model is better than goddards 3.3 model, then why do goddard and others continue to put out stuff based on sensitivities that are too high? dont they see the damage they are doing to the cause.

      • But Callender & Goddard.
        My hobbyhorse for a replot.

      • Jim D

        Don’t fall into the trap of quoting SkS when comparing a Hansen forecast with what actually happened.

        Hansen’s 1988 warming forecast (BaU Case A) was exaggerated by a factor of two – despite the fact that GHG emissions slightly exceeded those in his forecast.
        http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2537/5738998081_b3b3e55049_b.jpg

        Oops!

        Temperature actually followed Hansen’s Case C (no further emissions after 2000).

        Ouch!

        Problem appears to be that Hansen’s model used a 2xCO2 ECS that was exaggerated by a factor of two.

        Max

      • Mosher, they set the baseline zero for GISTEMP to be the 1971-91 average and started the Hansen (1981) line from that baseline. I don’t know a better way to do that, and this is just nitpicking. The gradient from his forecast starting around 1980 to 2010 is easy to see because the lines start at the same place when this baseline is used.

      • manacker, the skeptics have paid little attention to the 1981 Science paper. They need to become more familiar with it because his model sensitivity was close to what is still the current consensus, and it was run even before the current rise since 1980 was detectable. It shows that the warmists were right already 30 years ago. You want long-term validation. You got long-term validation. This can only be done with long past publications like this that have had 30 years to give a true climate change prediction. Soon we will be in the 30-year range of the early IPCC projections, and can also check them at that stage.

      • Manacker,

        JimD is right. Hansen used the value of ECS of 3C for his 1981 paper, and he included the OHC model of standard thermal diffusivities to predict a TCR of 2C, which is what we are seeing right now with the current observational evidence.

        What happened with the 1988 paper was that Hansen increased the CO2 sensitivity to an ECS well above 4C. This of course has not panned out with the current observational evidence, but if you read his recent papers [1][2] Hansen ascribes the mismatch to an abundance of aerosols that are masking the predicted higher sensitivity. That is all you have to argue with — if the aerosols are non-existent, the 1981 ECS of 3C is operative, and if the aerosols are actually there and compensating the higher ECS, then a value of above 4C and perhaps 5C is operational. See Russell’s recent paper [3] where this high value is predicted.

        Max, It must hurt when you don’t do your research homework, Ouch!

        [1] J. Hansen, M. Sato, P. Kharecha, and K. von Schuckmann, “Earth’s energy imbalance and implications,” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 11, no. 24, pp. 13421–13449, Dec. 2011.
        [2] J. Hansen, M. Sato, G. Russell, and P. Kharecha, “Climate Sensitivity, Sea Level, and Atmospheric CO2,” arXiv preprint arXiv:1211.4846, 2012.
        [3]G. L. Russell, A. A. Lacis, D. H. Rind, C. Colose, and R. F. Opstbaum, “Fast Atmosphere–ocean Model Runs with Large Changes in CO2,” Geophysical Research Letters, 2013.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Still arguing that greenhouse gases caused all the recent warming is demonstrable nonsense. Where is the rational attribution? Where does abrupt variability from dynamical complexity square with ordered forcing and what does that mean for the future evolution of climate?

      • ” Chief Hydrologist | November 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

        Still arguing that greenhouse gases caused all the recent warming is demonstrable nonsense. “

        The recent warming is a sustained level of forcing, as the La Ninas of today are as warm as the previous El Ninos. Apparently Chief does not read the vast peer-reviewed scientific literature on this topic.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        ‘Although it is not possible to reliably determine the
        relative contribution of anthropogenic forcing and SOI accumulation from multiple regression models due to collinearity, these analyses suggest that an accumulation ratio cSOI/SOI of 4.8+/-1.5
        and up to 9+/-2 is sucient for ENSO to play a large part in the global mean temperature trend since 1960.’ http://arxiv.org/abs/0908.1828

        There is no actual science about La Nina being as warm as El Nino – it is a pure blogification. In this case it is a typical webby cognitive boner. The actual web meme of the Borg collective cult of AGW groupthink space cadets is that current La Nina are warmer than previous La Nina.

        Here’s the MEI.

        http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/enso/mei/ts.gif

        http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_September_2013_v5.6.png

        It is abundantly clear that La Nina are not as warm as El Nino. The case for La Nina being abnormally warm seems pretty dubious as well.

        You can pretty much overlay these two graphs – as Stockwell and Cox do.

        http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/SC09-Fig1_zpsbeab07eb.png.html?sort=3&o=0

        It uses a lagged SOI, a cumulative SOI to represent persistence and anthropogenic forcing.

        Webby arbitrarily by declaration dismisses cumulative Soi. I arbitrarily dismiss webby because – well – he is a simplistic moron of a blog scientist.

        The problem with this simple method is collinearity. Recognise that and at least it is progress – albeit glacially slow and kicking and screaming.

        The conceptual model based on the theory of synchronous chaos goes a great deal – beyond webby’s limited horizons.

        http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/rc_fig1_zpsf24786ae.jpg.html?sort=3&o=30

        Most warming was not CO2 – and warming is overwhelmingly unlikely to recommence anytime soon.

        http://judithcurry.com/2013/11/09/impacts-of-chinas-hydropower-boom/#comment-410991

      • Cumulative SOI is a crutch for the feeble-minded as they desperately seek a mechanism to explain rising temperatures.

        A cumulative of one sea-level pressure reading minus the cumulative of another sea-level pressure reading should eventually go to zero if it wasn’t meaningless in the first place.

        It figures that the Chief would cite another Aussie wacko in Stockwell.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        When considering weather trends, it is useful to examine the El Niño and La Niña activities. The black line in Figure 1 depicts the variation in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) since 1970, which is one of the measures used to describe the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
        phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. While the relative number of El Niño and La Niña episodes over the past 120 years is similar, there has been a much higher occurrence of El Niño events since 1977. This has produced persistent drought over much of Australia and an absence of tropical
        cyclones. However, since 2008, La Niña has made a strong return, resulting in record rainfalls and flooding over much of eastern Australia.
        The blue line in the graph is the accumulated value of the SOI since 1970. It indicates an initial rise to around 1977 due to the dominance of La Niña, followed by a steady fall to 2008 as El Niño exerts control. Since 2008, it suggests a possible return to La Niña dominance. This 40 year variability is consistent with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which together with ENSO may indicate a return to the wet and windy periods experienced in the 1970s.

        This means, stronger than normal winds may cause ocean
        temperatures to rise above average, thereby increasing
        the risk of cyclone and storm tides, particularly on the
        Queensland coast of Australia.
        http://www.ghd.com/PDF/GHDNews134%20Liftout.pdf

        Unlike El Niño and La Niña, which may occur every 3 to 7 years and last from 6 to 18 months, the PDO can remain in the same phase for 20 to 30 years. The shift in the PDO can have significant implications for global climate, affecting Pacific and Atlantic hurricane activity, droughts and flooding around the Pacific basin, the productivity of marine ecosystems, and global land temperature patterns. This multi-year Pacific Decadal Oscillation ‘cool’ trend can intensify La Niña or diminish El Niño impacts around the Pacific basin,” said Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “The persistence of this large-scale pattern [in 2008] tells us there is much more than an isolated La Niña occurring in the Pacific Ocean.”

        Natural, large-scale climate patterns like the PDO and El Niño-La Niña are superimposed on global warming caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and landscape changes like deforestation. According to Josh Willis, JPL oceanographer and climate scientist, “These natural climate phenomena can sometimes hide global warming caused by human activities. Or they can have the opposite effect of accentuating it.”

        It is evident that webby rejects ideas based on pure bravado. I am more than a little bored by this moron who is talking shite so far out of his element that it has long passed the point of sane discourse. In fact that probably is the case for all wobbly’s comments.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        When considering weather trends, it is useful to examine the El Niño and La Niña activities. The black line in Figure 1 depicts the variation in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) since 1970, which is one of the measures used to describe the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
        phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. While the relative number of El Niño and La Niña episodes over the past 120 years is similar, there has been a much higher occurrence of El Niño events since 1977. This has produced persistent drought over much of Australia and an absence of tropical
        cyclones. However, since 2008, La Niña has made a strong return, resulting in record rainfalls and flooding over much of eastern Australia.
        The blue line in the graph is the accumulated value of the SOI since 1970. It indicates an initial rise to around 1977 due to the dominance of La Niña, followed by a steady fall to 2008 as El Niño exerts control. Since 2008, it suggests a possible return to La Niña dominance. This 40 year variability is consistent with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which together with ENSO may indicate a return to the wet and windy periods experienced in the 1970s.

        This means, stronger than normal winds may cause ocean
        temperatures to rise above average, thereby increasing
        the risk of cyclone and storm tides, particularly on the
        Queensland coast of Australia.
        http://www.ghd.com/PDF/GHDNews134%20Liftout.pdf

        Unlike El Niño and La Niña, which may occur every 3 to 7 years and last from 6 to 18 months, the PDO can remain in the same phase for 20 to 30 years. The shift in the PDO can have significant implications for global climate, affecting Pacific and Atlantic hurricane activity, droughts and flooding around the Pacific basin, the productivity of marine ecosystems, and global land temperature patterns. This multi-year Pacific Decadal Oscillation ‘cool’ trend can intensify La Niña or diminish El Niño impacts around the Pacific basin,” said Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “The persistence of this large-scale pattern [in 2008] tells us there is much more than an isolated La Niña occurring in the Pacific Ocean.”

        Natural, large-scale climate patterns like the PDO and El Niño-La Niña are superimposed on global warming caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and landscape changes like deforestation. According to Josh Willis, JPL oceanographer and climate scientist, “These natural climate phenomena can sometimes hide global warming caused by human activities. Or they can have the opposite effect of accentuating it.”

        It is evident that webby rejects ideas based on pure bravado. I am more than a little bored by this simpleton who is talking BS so far out of his element that it has long passed the point of sane discourse. In fact that probably is the case for all wobbly’s comments.

    • “FOMD
      As DocMartyn appreciates, these volatile neurotoxic compounds are produced in tropical and temperature nation, where the toxins evaporate into the air, then migrate on the winds to Arctic regions, then condense onto the ice and cold ground, then finally accumulate in the wildlife/food-chain.”

      Point 1) toxin noun
      “Any substance poisonous to an organism; often restricted to poisons produced by living organisms”.
      Point 2) neurotoxin noun
      “A substance poisonous to the nervous system of an organism”
      Point 3) Persistent organic pollutants, like organochlorine pesticides partition into lipid and accumulate vertically in carnivorous food chains. The fat of marine mammals are a reservoir of both organohalides and organomercury, and thus serve as a useful indicator of policies to reduce the introduction of POP’s and organomercury into the biosphere.
      Human milk, in populations that have an oily-fish rich diet, also indicate if the switch from persistent to non-persistent chemicals has been a success.
      Human Breast milk in Norwegian women.
      http://origin-ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S0045653508007558-gr4.jpg

      The Germans, who were big producers of PCP’s were quick to set up a monitoring system to examine mothers milk and serum for a range of pollutants in the early 80′s. Thanks to their Teutonic thoroughness we can observe the change in steady state levels of pollutants in the human food chain, like hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and pentachlorophenol (PCP)

      http://www.uni-trier.de/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_ESB-Hum6_8fd87114cd.gif

      lead
      http://www.uni-trier.de/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_ESB-Hum4_b964c5cff9.gif

      That we are putting nasty stuff into the biosphere is undoubtedly true, that we are dumping less of the things we know are pretty nasty is also undoubtedly true.
      PCB’s are harmful to humans at high concentrations, last a long time in the biosphere and could be easily replaced. So phasing them out was not a major problem.
      DDT was a very useful weapon in the fight against malaria, phasing it out only kills poor brown people, so phasing them out was not a major problem.
      Fossil fuels underpin the whole economic activity of the planets human population and the only alternative to burning them is blocked because people like you are frightened by ‘corium’, so we will burn coal, oil, bitumen and methane until people like you have died off and we can replace them with nuclear power.

      Being worried by realistic threats is a sign of intellectual maturity, but being frightened of potential toxicants due to ignorance of the definition of the word toxin, is a sign of emotional immaturity and mental instability. The world has enough pressing problems without wasting resources on fighting invisible, imaginary, monsters of the id.

      OK John, put up or shut up. Name me the environmental ‘neurotoxin’ found in the normal human population, that you state is causing death of neurons/astrocytes and I will test it in human cortical neurons and normal human astrocytes.
      I know you will not name and shame the pesticide, as you know and indeed we all know, you are a fraud who is full of crap. Why do you shy away from experimental evidence John?
      I have the HCN and the NHA cells in culture now, I can obtain any pesticide you name, as I screen them for Autism inducers anyway.
      I have yet to find an environmental magic bullet, but then I am not as smart as you am I John.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        DocMartyn claims “I will test [for neurotoxicity] in human cortical neurons and normal human astrocytes.”

        Please help us to understand your experiments DocMartyn!

        • Neuron cell-cultures comprise an utterly different environment than the developing infant brain

        • The epigenomic mechanisms that regulate phenotypic differentiation and brain connection development in human infants and children are largely unknown

        • Toxicity studies assay for cell death mainly for the practical reason that finer-grained phenotypic expression and/or brain development disruption can’t be assayed at all in cell culture.

        Conclusion  Scientific understanding of brain development is comparably undeveloped to scientific understanding of fracking … and is comparably subject to short-sighted self-serving astro-turfing from the chemical industry

        Ain’t this plain common-sense, DocMartyn?

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Listen Fraud, it was you who started calming that pesticides were ‘neurotoxins’ and that levels of pesticides in human serum were neurotoxic. Now you have spent a little time and come to understand the complexities of astrocyte/neuronal interactions and development. You follow by posting a few links to papers you do not understand.
        So John, this is the bottom line. Neurochemistry is very hard, attempting to examine how brains work is still in its infancy. We cannot interrogate the system without altering the system. We work with what we have and use as many platforms as possible. Trying to understand the phenotype that is the individual mind linkage to brain cells is so very difficult, it makes climate research look like a children game.
        You John, know bugger all about neurochemistry, indeed, you know bugger all about biochemistry and cell biology. Those of us at the coal face at least have a sense of our own ignorance and the size of the mountain we need to climb.
        You are a fraud, with no understanding of what science is and what scientists can contribute to humankind.
        When I examine human neurons and astrocytes in culture I know I am dealing with an artificial system, but it beats using rodent cells.

      • > Listen Fraud, it was you who started calming that pesticides were ‘neurotoxins’ [...]

        I think Fan mentioned “neurotoxic compounds” once, Doc.

        Drop the stick and back slowly from the horse, please.

      • David Springer

        huh-huh uh huh he said breast

  17. Matthew R Marler

    Prof Curry: Several years ago, my company CFAN had a project funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to look at climate-related security concerns. One of the things we looked at was that riparian threats associated with the circum-Himalayan Rivers. Below are some excerpts of background information from our report:

    Is that report available?

  18. Not only were there ~81,000 deaths attributed to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake linked to the building of a dam, there were 171,000 casualties caused by the Banqaio dam failure of 1975.

    Curiously, “Greens” can get quite abusive when you remind them that their “environmentally friendly” energy schemes aren’t as benign as they would have you believe.

    • Matthew R Marler

      catweazle666: ~81,000 deaths attributed to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake linked to the building of a dam

      What was the “linkage”? Earthquakes occur throughout China every year killing at least tens of thousands. Wouldn’t that earthquake have occurred anyway because of the plate tectonics driving earthquakes? We are prone to forget what a huge area China is and what a large number 1.2 billions of people is. Isn’t it (so to speak) the geologic clash between India and China that is building up the Himalayas? The weight of the water behind the dams is a tiny fraction of the forces at work. Isn’t that so?

      • “What was the “linkage”?”

        Matthew, Mattthew – the linkage is obvious! It was asserted in this (and likely others as well) paper that there is a link. This is peer reviewed. Therefore, peer reviewed science shows a linkage. QED.

        (you are required to ignore the lack of a controlled study that demonstrates the linkage – look, squirrels!)

      • I’m not a geologist, and we have plenty at this blog who should chime in, but it seems that at worst, given the underlying plate tectonics, placing a weight load might influence the timing of quakes, but not whether or not they’ll happen, or how much energy is released.

        Any geologists here are invited to concur/dispute/shine some more light.

      • And when I say “geologists”, I don’t mean Starfleet Academy Sophomores.

      • David Springer

        Kneel, the POS article by Charlton Lewis in the OP isn’t peer reviewed.

  19. “The rotting of inundated trees and vegetation in reservoirs emits the greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide and methane, that rise from reservoir surfaces. Over a projected lifetime of a dam in temperate regions, emissions could be from roughly one-third to nearly two-thirds that of a natural gas plant.”

    Looks like a timing difference. The biomass decays, being under water. The GHGs are created. It is assumed the underwater area behind the dam has a net biomass loss. So the dam pulls the GHGs from the future into the present. If a dam has a 50 year life, after 50 years trees return behind the dam and take up GHGs. Pushing GHGs into the future to balance the prior time shift. So a dam is a reverse GHG bank, but it is just a timing shift. Over the long run I’d argue no GHGs are created, and it’s all just timing differences.

    My point is the quoted paragraph seems a bit of a misdirect. I think in my explanation, the books balance. In theirs, well.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      ‘Although the design of dams is typically based on a 50-year economic life, most appropriately designed dams are intended to last indefinitely with proper maintenance and periodic repairs. Without proper operation and maintenance, dams may deteriorate and can ultimately create public safety hazards, which must be corrected. Also, as societal values change some dams are considered undesirable from an economic, environmental, or other public interest or political standpoint. When any dam becomes a safety hazard that is uneconomical to repair or is deemed undesirable for other reasons, treatment alternatives may include decommissioning up to and including dam removal. The cost of decommissioning a dam can be very significant, especially the removal and disposal of contaminated reservoir sediments or replacement of lost hydropower generation. Each situation is different and must be considered on a case by case basis.’ http://www.ussdams.org/c_decom.html

      1000 years for some of these structures is possible.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Chief Hydrologist posts reasonably:  “As societal values change some dams are considered undesirable from an economic, environmental, or other public interest or political standpoint. When any dam becomes a safety hazard that is uneconomical to repair or is deemed undesirable for other reasons, treatment alternatives may include decommissioning up to and including dam removal.”

      Terrific post Chief! Thank you!

      Yah, sure, you betcha … dam-removal is a da*m interesting process, economically, politically, and ecologically!

      Conclusion–I  As climate-change forces tough choices upon humanity, Hansen-style investment in nuclear energy, backed-up by solar-energy, wind-energy, and conservation, is looking more-and-more like humanity’s most sustainable option for the long term.

      That’s plain scientific, economic, and moral common-sense, eh Chief Hydrologist?

      Remark  As the USA/Elwa river dam-demolition experience is demonstrating, China’s 22nd century removal of its too-numerous (and inexorably sediment-filled) dams will foreseeably create comparably many jobs as China’s 21st century construction of its dams.

      Conclusion–II  Both from a near-term job-creation standpoint, and from a long-term ecological standpoint, perhaps China’s dam-building strategy is smarter than a carbon-burning strategy.

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Matthew R Marler

        A fan of *MORE* discourse: Conclusion–II Both from a near-term job-creation standpoint, and from a long-term ecological standpoint, perhaps China’s dam-building strategy is smarter than a carbon-burning strategy.

        China is pursuing an “all of the above” energy strategy. They have wind and solar farms under construction, fossil fueled and nuclear fueled power plants under construction, LNG importations, petroleum importation and now they are starting in on fracking.

        You didn’t say so directly, but I take it that you do place great value on the 10,000 MW of electricity generating capacity of the Three Gorges Dam.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        You recognize of course that your comments are a hodge podge of irrationally disconnected talking points and that discussing anything with you is like talking to a black hole. Everything disappears up your arse to reappear via worm hole in an alternate universe.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Talking to FOMBS of course.

      • Talking to bots is usually not productive.

  20. John Robertson

    Quite the emotive little article.
    As if the Chinese care about CAWG, they have millions to feed, clothe and keep occupied.
    Did I miss it, or was this emotive raving solution free?

    • My reaction too, John. He doesn’t talk about negative or damaging effects, he talks about “havoc” – a word I suspect doesn’t mean what he thinks it does.

      The we have “China’s dam builders are making a Faustian bargain with nature, selling their country’s soul in their drive for economic growth.” Leaving aside that using nature as a metaphor for the devil is perhaps not quite what he intended.

      So it’s empty rhetoric, bloviating, compounded by illiteracy about language and the classics, while he pretends to use them to support his argument.

      Third rate, at best, and far from convincing.

      • Couple of grammatical boo-boos there which I thought I’d fixed before posting. Oh, for a brief edit window for our posts!

      • I’ll take your writing, with boo-boos, over that sorry attempt at an opera masquerading as a paper.

      • Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of progressivism!

      • Johanna, I’m tempted to do some bloviating on what the Yangtze and Huai River flood did in 1931, before that Faustian bargain of the Three Gorges. Some say that flood was history’s greatest natural disaster in terms of deaths. Before that, there was the Yellow River Flood of 1887. Were there a million or two million dead in that one? Hard to count. Impossible to count the deaths in the great floods of the Ming period.

        I suppose the deliberate Yellow River flood of 1938 was pretty Faustian…or just plain dumb and evil. But you don’t have to sell your soul sometimes, do you? The stuff just happens anyway.

      • Thanks Harold, you are very kind. I hate sloppy writing, but confess that my blog comments are not always up to my own standard. For some reason, things that look OK in the comment box are clearly not OK when they appear on the big screen. It’s one of the things I like about Bishop Hill – you have 15 minutes to revise your post and fix up stupid errors. When I was writing stuff for politicians, I always used to print it out before sending it any further because the screen version seemed to have a hypnotic effect that masked glaring errors.

        Gary – indeed. “Havoc” is nowadays used for the shemozzle of SUVs outside schools when all the parents come to pick up their darlings.

        Mosomoso – one of the enduring creepiness factors of greenies is their utter indifference to deaths outside their comfort zone. It is almost as though one death in their cause is worth some undisclosed number of deaths that don’t fit the narrative.

        BTW, here in Canberra (which Tim Flannery et al said was on the road to perdition and permanent drought for the usual reasons) – the dams have years of water supply, it is raining, and it is 9.1C, which is about 10C below average. It’s just weather, folks.

      • Johanna, wasn’t it Stalin that said “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic”?

  21. I always laugh to my self when the argument is made (usually by politicians), that developed countries (such as the US) are responsible for most of the historical anthropogenic emissions in the atmosphere, thus, the developing world (China, India) have a “right” to pollute a similar amount of CO2 in order to boost their economies. Wealth redistribution IPCC -style. That would only be a fair comparison if you ignored technology transfer (such as the Francis turbine developed over a century and a half ago…..)

    “Sure , you can pollute like the western countries……but you can do it without western technology” Clearly an unfair proposition….

  22. Hydro’s okay. Nukes aren’t too shabby. But what can beat gorgeous black coal from the Sydney-Gunnedah basin? It has the colour and gloss of the best Dutch liquorice, and a superb aroma of Lapsang Soochong. Burns like a dream.

    Chocolate sunshine!

    • Yes! And look-it – it’s biogenic, right? Therefore, it’s renewable, innit? True, we are consuming it at a greater rate than it is being generated, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s renewable, does it?

      • Sadly, when something more efficient comes along (it will) the world’s finest coal will lie about unused. Still, we’ll be able to pat it and smell it in situ.

        I hope some open-cut mines are left as is, a bit like those superb artificial landscapes created by Roman mining in the Bierzo region of Spain.

        Imagine bothering whether something is renewable! As if “our grandchildren” (yeah, those guys again!) will be bothered mucking about with all our old tech.

      • Don’t worry mosomoso, coal will still be used in the chemical industry, as a carbon feed stock, for a millennium.
        I visited a lab last week and a Ph. D. student showed me a 20 liter container of black liquid that he swore was fluorescent quantum dots, made by burning coal at low oxygen levels.
        You can use them to harvest sunlight for solar cells

  23. In my opinion China has every right to provide water to its large and growing population. Yes, it raises international problems, but these can be overcome. There is no doubt that nations have a controlling interest in water that falls on their lands

    The UN should spend more time on problems like this. rather than unsuccessful attempts to control climate,

  24. Dr Curry,
    Some tid bits having lived in Idaho Montana and Oregon:
    The Columbia River Gorge was partially formed by the great Missoula Flood. The geologist (J Harlen Bretz) that first proposed this in the 20s was ostracized by the geological society at the time but it eventually was recognized. The river used to be two rivers running east to west on the one side of the gorge and west to east (then north) on the other side. The first Missoula flood burst through and formed the gorge which is pretty much one of a kind going through a mountain range (Cascades) that includes Mt Hood and Mt St Helens. The gorge has one of a kind flora and fauna as it goes from a desert climate to a rain forest climate shortly after The Dalles OR going west that is unique in the world. The floods filled up the Willamette valley each time they occurred. The Willamette river Is the only major river to move from south to north in North America. It enters the Columbia River just past downtown Portland. Hydrologists have taken an interest in the Willamette as being a south to north river outside of Russia.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=great+missoula+flood+columbia+river+gorge&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=com.floodgap:en-US:unofficial&client=firefox-a

    http://columbiariverimages.com/Regions/Places/missoula_floods.html

  25. The Chinese government declares that ”’such dams are safe, avoid pollution, address future climate change, control floods and droughts, and enhance human life”

    AND THEY ARE SPOT- ON The western Green slime can find fault in building dams – how low they can get?!.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      stefanthedenier remarks: “The western Green slime can find fault in building dams – how low they can get?!”

      Abusive rhetoric by stefanthedenier, science by FOMD.

      Thank you, stefanthedenier, for helping to recruit, by your personal example, the ignorant and/or abusive and/or short-sighted elements of society to the cause of climate-change denialism!

      By helping to concentrate abusively anti-science members of society within a smaller-and-smaller & more-and-more inbred & more-and-more ignorant social compass — within which these elements become politically impotent — you are serving well the interests of 21st century democracy, stefanthedenier!

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • I’m just wondering if he set Fan up for that one.

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      stefanthedenier remarks and Peter Lang enthusiastically approves: “The western Green slime can find fault in building dams – how low they can get?!”

      Slogan-shouting by stefanthedenier, links to the vehemently pro-fracking site No Green Slime by FOMD.

      It’s good that neither of you are affiliated with Big Carbon’s burgeoning astroturf efforts, stefanthedenier and Peter Lang!

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • farmers depend more on the climate than anybody else; they know what is better climate, or what’s extreme. Petroleum or farmers, they are all producers; none of the Green Slime ever produced anything, apart of BS

      • Petroleum made farmers much more productive when they moved from mules or horses to tractors.

  26. Steve Fitzpatrick

    Judith,

    The analyses linked to appear to have all been written by green advocacy groups. I would be ‘skeptical’ about reservoirs causing major earthquakes unless solid (non-advocacy) research supports that conclusion.

  27. Once again, an opinion based on geological ignorance. I have long despaired of this pernicious mindset … no point in delineating tectonics for those who have no wish to understand

    If the increased overburden of large bodies of impounded water increase the probability of minor tremors, such minor sequences relieve the buildup of tectonic stress, reducing the likelihood of a major disruption

    Why is the San Andreas fault zone constantly pumped with water ?

  28. David L. Hagen

    Judith
    Hale solar cycle & hydrology
    On hydro forecasting, suggest examining the correlation with the ~21 year Hale solar cycle. A number of links have been added at JoNova’s
    Has North Victoria cooled, and is that the ghost of a solar cycle signal we see?

    Also recommend getting WJR Alexander’s complete opus magnum where he collected ALL the hydrology data in southern Africa for > 100 years. He has it all on CD for the asking. He found a strong Hale solar cycle in the runoff data but NOT in the humidity/evaporation data.
    See references under my earlier post
    Summer Monsoon Failures

    Note that there may be major variations in Hale cycle correlation with latitude. e.g. it is different in the tropical Nile data.

    Also note the strong Hurst-Kolmogorov dynamics found by Koutsoyiannis et a. where they show that hydrology is NOT random. e.g.
    Markonis, Y., and D. Koutsoyiannis, Climatic variability over time scales spanning nine orders of magnitude: Connecting Milankovitch cycles with Hurst–Kolmogorov dynamics, Surveys in Geophysics, 34 (2), 181–207, 2013.

    By superimposing the climacograms of the different series, we obtain an impressive overview of the variability for time scales spanning almost nine orders of magnitude—from 1 month to 50 million years. An overall climacogram slope of −0.08 supports the presence of HK dynamics with Hurst coefficient of at least 0.92. The orbital forcing (Milankovitch cycles) is also evident in the combined climacogram at time scales between 10 and 100 thousand years. While orbital forcing favours predictability at the scales it acts, the overview of climate variability at all scales suggests a big picture of irregular change and uncertainty of Earth’s climate.

    Note Koutsoyiannis’ numerous publications on hydrology and climate.

    Best wishes on your research.

  29. Retrograde Orbit

    One aspect of large, environmentally damaging projects like hydroelectric dams is that there are always winners and losers. And the winners, because of the economic benefits they enjoy tend to simply railroad the losers without mercy.
    And that may be in the best interest of a nation as a whole, but is it right? Morally?
    For example, the displaced Chinese peasants will simply have lost their homes – and that’s all they will get out of the dam.

    • The people who lost homes will benefit from the energy the dam produces from now on. Some will benefit directly, but all will benefit indirectly. Even people who don’t drive benefit from the services and goods hauled over roads. Ethically, building the dam is the right thing to do. And I assume the displaced people were compensated in some manner.

  30. I’ll add my two cents worth. I’ve been associated with hydro power development since I was a child I have and worked on hydro, and other energy projects, on every continent except Antarctica.

    Since this web site is about ‘Climate Etc.’ I’ll focus on some big picture comments about hydro power relating to climate change policy.

    First, we need to understand the goal and understand what could make a significant contribution to achieving the goal. If the goal is to replace fossil fuels with a low GHG alternative, we need to know how much fossil fuel energy we need to replace, and how much energy could be provided by hydro electricity. Professor Barry Brook had a post on the ‘Energy demand equation to 2050′:

    Bottom line: 2050 power demand will be ~10 TWe of electrical generating power — a 5-fold increase on today’s levels, requiring the construction of ~680 MWe per day from 2010 to 2050.

    Before we look in detail at the various low-carbon energy technologies that may provide the means to move away from fossil fuels, it is worthwhile considering what our future energy targets are likely to be. That is, what are plausible energy demand scenarios?

    Read the post here: http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/11/tcase3/

    I don’t have the figures to hand, but it is widely accepted that there is not a lot more hydro capacity available world wide, so additional hydro development will not be able to make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions from here on.

    Second, one of the greatest benefits of hydro is its ability to provide rapid response to fluctuations in demand and especially to provide peak power generation. The power can be ramped up and down and can be turned on and off more quickly than any other large scale electricity generator. So hydro helps reduce the cost of electricity across the whole system even though the hydro electricity itself may be expensive. It handles the peaks and fluctuation in demand on the grid and therefore allows the thermal generators (fossil fuel, nuclear, biomass, geothermal) to operate at their optimum output and, therefore, at lower cost. So the more hydro generation in a grid the better. It enables intermittent renewables like solar and wind to be less expensive in the grid than they otherwise would be. An excellent example of this is Denmark’s wind generation tied with Norway’s hydro. Norway’s hydro generation is reduced when the wind blows in Denmark and, when the wind isn’t blowing, the hydro generation is increased to meet the demand in the grid Another excellent example of the valuable contribution of hydro is France. France generated 79% of its electricity with nuclear power and 9% with hydro (in 2011 according to IEA: http://www.iea.org/statistics/statisticssearch/report/?country=FRANCE&product=electricityandheat&year=2011). The relatively small contribution of hydro is enormously valuable.

    Lastly, China needs power It will develop all economically viable sources. The hydro power is enormously valuable and will make it cheaper and easier for China to include nuclear and renewables in its electricity supply. China is very lucky to have the ability to develop more hydro capacity.

    • Peter Lang makes a great point about hydro power.

      Its gap filling ability. Demand and generation fluctuations can be a big problem. To try to look at in a financial way, hydro can make other methods more profitable. Hydro’s idle time as it waits to fill the gaps, is going to make it more expensive as its profit meters spend much of the time idle.

      Hydro can be that less seller to enter the market, when others cannot supply at a specific time for whatever reason, then they make their money. If hydro is idle much more than the other sources, it would only seem fair that they sell at higher price. That last seller to enter a market has to coaxed with a higher price.

      It may not be that hydro’s costs are higher without a reasonable cause. It may be that its role as a gap filler, that it can solve all fluctuation problems explains its costs. The higher marginal costs to some extent originate from the other types of power generation.

      There’s more to it than asking how much did you supply and what were your total revenues?

    • David Springer

      “I don’t have the figures to hand, but it is widely accepted that there is not a lot more hydro capacity available world wide, so additional hydro development will not be able to make much of a contribution to reducing global GHG emissions from here on.”

      I call bullschit on “widely accepted”. There are jillions of places for new dams worldwide for hydro power generation. The reason there aren’t more of them is, up until now at least, hydro-power generation is a secondary benefit. Dams are primarily built to control floods and supply water during dry times. Write that down.

    • I suspect those dams, and the lakes behind them, will double as energy storage mechanisms for solar, and perhaps wind, power. Thus reducing or even eliminating the disadvantages of intermittency in those sources of power.

      • David Springer

        You suspect wrong.

      • We’ll see. Time will tell.

      • David Springer

        Pumping water uphill for energy storage isn’t economical in the best of circumstances. You’ll see. I already know the score. The parasitic losses are horrible starting with gear losses in the wind-powered pump (add in motor loss for electrical pump), and pipe friction. Now add in evaporation of your pumped storage and more parasitic losses regenerating electricity from head pressure at the base of the dam. Then there’s the lack of suitable locations for wind/solar close to the dam. It’s not viable when the location is perfect for it and the location of dams are perfect for capturing runoff not for location wind or solar power installations. You put very little thought into your comment and it shows.

    • I concur with Peter and Ak’s comments on the role of large (and even small) hydro facilities. It appears that China is following CA’s development efforts of the 1950’s: large dams for flood control, potable and irrigation water for urban/suburban/ agricultural development with electrical power generation as well. A brief history of Folsom‘s Dam and it’s power plant is noted below:
      http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=882
      “Directly below the dam is the Folsom Powerplant. Its three generators produce 198,207 kilowatts of power. Each year Folsom Dam prevents potential flooding downstream from winter storms and spring snow runoff.
      • In 1955, during the construction phase and in 1964 and 1986, Folsom Dam saved the Sacramento area from major flooding when torrential rain and heavy snows fell in the Sierra Nevada/American River Basin.
      • During the December 1964 storm, the inflow into Folsom Lake reached a record high of 280,000 cubic feet per second, with a river release of 115,000 cubic feet per second. That was 15,000 cubic feed per second over the downriver levee design capacity.
      • Up to February 1986, the estimated flood savings totaled $438 million. In February 1986, Folsom Dam prevented an estimated $4.7 billion in flood damages…..”
      The Sacramento Municipal Unities District taps into the water flowing down from the Sierra’s (American River) before the water makes it to Folsom Dam as well-
      http://hydrorelicensing.smud.org/project/system.pdf
      “SMUD’s Upper American River Project (UARP), consisting of
      11 reservoirs and eight powerhouses, generates enough electricity
      to meet about 20 percent of SMUD’s customer demand. In a
      normal water year, the UARP provides roughly 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity..”
      http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/735/files/transcriptfolsompowerhousetour.pdf
      Small hydro’s load balancing role in the grid’s operation can be seen in yesterday’s CASIO output graphs-
      http://content.caiso.com/green/renewrpt/DailyRenewablesWatch.pdf
      The role of the states large hydro facilities is revealed in the daily output tables as well. Yesterday was a poor day to have relied on wind power to keep the lights on in the state. It’s kind of amazing to think that the grid is flexible enough to accommodate wind levels as low as 8 MU (at 1800 hours yesterday, vs say the 1486 MU generated at 1800 hours a year earlier.
      http://content.caiso.com/green/renewrpt/20131109_DailyRenewablesWatch.txt
      http://content.caiso.com/green/renewrpt/20121109_DailyRenewablesWatch.txt
      I’d hate to think of how many natural gas, or nuclear power plants would have been required to meet the states grid requirements yesterday without having the flexibility that the hydro facilities provided.

      • David Springer

        Hydropower generation is icing on the cake. The primary function of dams is water storage for both flood control and providing water to downstream users based upon demand rather than nature’s whim.

  31. Thanks for the reminder that human life is competition for access to the energy that sustains life.

    Rigorous application of the scientific method is required if mankind is to continue to evolve – by conquering instinctive fears and accepting reality -
    even when reality is frightening!

  32. Sustainocene

    • Thanks, Steven, for this video. It gives proper credit to the Sun as the source of energy and the sustainer of life in the solar system.

      I do not know if the technology is feasible to directly supply solar energy to individual users, but I am certain that mankind will benefit if sixty-eight years of deception about the source of energy in cores of heavy atoms, planets, stars and galaxies ends.

    • http://nocera.harvard.edu/Home

      So why doesn’t he start a company and start producing those energy hamburgers?

      • First prototypes were still too expensive. it will take some more advances in materials science.

        The point is not his solution. The point is his statement of the problem
        and the principles behind the solution.

        What is the problem?

        Energy for 6 billion

        What are the constraints for the solution

        1. Low carbon
        2. Low cost

        if you’re attacking a different problem.. if you perceive the constraint as the problem ( how do you cut carbon) then you will end up proposing
        all sorts of things that A) are not low cost and B) cannot get energy for 6Billion

      • The constraints for the problem are:

        1. reliable, secure, fit-for-purpose energy supply

        2. low cost

        3. environmentally benign

        in that order!

      • First prototypes were still too expensive. it will take some more advances in materials science.

        IIRC the company he formed ended up finding another, more efficient, way of making money. That doesn’t mean the technology can’t be made cost-effective, just that the general field has more cost-effective ways of multiplying limited investment money.

      • Although I haven’t dug into it as much as I’d like, my best guess is he’s got something closer to “prime time” for centralized power than his distributable “hamburgers”. I wonder what we’ll get when Nocera’s technology is combined with IBM’s. I’d guess the same water could be used for micro-channel cooling and electrolysis, and in a more “centralized” system it could be pure. And the cost per square cm could be 100′s of times larger while still being extremely cost-effective.

        Storing hydrogen is far beyond the capacities of primitive 3rd-world cultures, especially in local installations. But in big centralized operations in the US (Southwest, for example), the technology could probably become mature much more quickly.

        As for producing electricity, current possibilities include nanoscale sheets of tungsten sulfide as a low cost replacement for platinum catalysts in fuel cells and catalysts that “use carbon (partially derived from polyaniline in a high-temperature process), and inexpensive iron and cobalt instead of platinum”.

    • Yes, we need cheap energy for everyone. This is the most important goal we must strive for.

      Not distributed energy.

      The issue is getting power to industry. Need a grid.

      Won’t be the sun. Energy density is too low.

      A life time of energy in the palm of your hand
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/22/ifr-fad-4/

      • Not distributed energy.

        Distributed energy is a pipe-dream of environmentalists, who attack the biggest targets they see: big power plants, which are vulnerable to centralized control and sabotage. The primary economic value of the grid is the lack of distributed power storage. If you have that, the grid can be done without, and even an unreliable grid can be used effectively.

        The issue is getting power to industry. Need a grid.

        Today, in the US and (AFAIK) most of the rest of the industrial world, we have two, redundant energy grids: electricity and natural gas. Distributed power generation is perfectly feasible and would be cost effective in volume, using existing internal combustion technology. Back-up generators using methane are available and inexpensive at scales ranging from home-sized to large industrial. The current technology isn’t really useful for full-time, but modifying it to be so would be easy, cheap, and use mature technology (think automobiles).

        The big advantage of methane is storage. The technology for storing methane is already mature. It can be stored in small enough units to be transported to local distribution centers just like gasoline, which means you’re not dependent on a pre-made distribution grid. Such a grid can be present, as a cost-saver, but transport using trucks, helicopters, and hovercraft can be available as a back-up.

        This allows for an energy distribution system that’s far more robust to disaster: if the regular grid is shattered by earthquake, storm, sabotage, or other (hopefully) rare event, vehicles and other transport technology can be brought to location to replace it.

        Won’t be the sun. Energy density is too low.

        Energy density is fine. You just need to stop thinking of solar as always on-site, at least for industry. Just plan on transporting it from energy farms just like you transport it from centralized power plants.

      • AK,

        Gee you talk a lot of twaddle.

        Distributed power generation is perfectly feasible and would be cost effective in volume, using existing internal combustion technology. Back-up generators using methane are available and inexpensive at scales ranging from home-sized to large industrial.

        Which century are you advocating we go back to.

      • Which century are you advocating we go back to.

        I’m suggesting that unless a more direct cheap way of storing electrical energy becomes available, the huge grids should be considered a temporary, 20th century, phenomenon. Whether using IC motors or fuel cells for power generation, methane storage technology is already mature, and can be leveraged to provide robust, efficient energy delivery. Why build monster generator plants and a grid, when a distribution system for methane would be more robust? And smaller generators, which can be delivered promptly in an emergency?

      • “The issue is getting power to industry. Need a grid.”

        a grid only works in countries that have the capacity to payback the cost of the grid over time.

        you have 6 billion people without energy in 2050. few of them will be living in places that can afford a grid.

        Grids work fine for industrialized rich countries.

        That not the problem that needs solving

      • Grids work fine for industrialized rich countries.

        I once saw a picture of a “grid” in Iraq, made from cords strung around a car with its engine attached to a generator. “Grid” is scalable.

      • peter its simple.

        The cost of anything you build scales with the weight ( electronics being the exception)

        IF you want it to be low cost, if you want people making less than a dollar a day to afford it, then you cannot build something big. Grids are big.
        Grids weigh a lot. Grids are inherently costly. Just weigh the metal, that will give you a clue. and there is not enough volume to pay off your “tooling” cost. Unless you are a rich country

        Nuclear is big. Nuclear weighs a lot. It will never be cheap. just weigh it
        and you can see the cost floor.

        So, while nuclear will work fine for rich countries, it will not be a solution for the globe by 2050. Calculate how many plants you have to build in 35 years to supply 18 TW.

        Should we make it easier to build nuclear such that its cost can approach the material cost of construction? sure. But even then no poor nation can afford the captial to build the plant or the one off grid that it has to attach to.

      • Mosher. You are talking through your hat. You have en;t a clue what you are talking about. 70% of power is for non residential use. You cannot supply that power without a grid.

        Central power stations and grid are by far the least cost way to provide power.

      • Mosher,

        F you want it to be low cost, if you want people making less than a dollar a day to afford it, then you cannot build something big. Grids are big.
        Grids weigh a lot. Grids are inherently costly. Just weigh the metal, that will give you a clue. and there is not enough volume to pay off your “tooling” cost. Unless you are a rich country

        Meaningless babble. All adjectives, no relevant figures and costings.

        back to your play pit!

      • I think several people are missing the point about grids. You only have a grid if you have enough density to have some cross-connections and redundancy. Contrary to popular myth, there is no American national grid. There are three separate regional grids (Texas is special and have their own), with some ad hoc DC interconnections. Sorry, there is no ‘national grid’. Never was, and probably never will be (barring the development of cheap room-temperature superconductors).

        You have a grid where you have a lot of people. Where you don’t have a lot of people you may have some interties, but you don’t have a grid. Alaska doesn’t have a ‘grid’. Hawaii doesn’t have a grid in any meaningful sense. In a poor country with a high population you have a grid. In a rich country, province, or state, with low population you don’t.

        To make these wind thingys work, you don’t need a ‘grid’, you need some long-distance (probably DC) interties. That’s not the same thing as a grid.

      • Harold,

        A grid comprises transmission and distribution. All those places you mentioned have grids

      • Grids have cross connections and interties. Those places have local distribution systems. And I assure you most villages in Alaska have no connections to anything other than their local town power plant. There’s no connection between Ketchican and Anchorage. None.

      • Harold,

        An electrical grid is an interconnected network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_grid

        Transmissions and distribution is an electricity grid.

      • Harold,

        OK. I’ll try to clear up what I meant. This started with my comment:

        Not distributed energy.

        The issue is getting power to industry. Need a grid.

        I should have been more careful and said

        “Not distributed energy. The issue is getting power to industry. Need generators, transmission and distributions system. If there is a significant load from industry and/or commerce, different types of generators will normally be used to specialise in baseload, intermediate and peak generation, load balancing etc. ”

        That would have been more accurate.

        The main point I wanted to make to Mosher is that distributed generation where every demand source has its own generator and storage cannot work for (my guess) 99% of the electricity supply and demand system. For most of the power we need transmissions and distribution. If not, then each demand centre needs sufficient generating capacity and storage to provide it with the maximum power it could ever demand and the maximum amount of energy that could ever be demanded. That would be enormously expensive and far more than the cost of transmissions and distribution.

        I hope that clarifies.

      • For most of the power we need transmissions and distribution. If not, then each demand centre needs sufficient generating capacity and storage to provide it with the maximum power it could ever demand and the maximum amount of energy that could ever be demanded. That would be enormously expensive and far more than the cost of transmissions and distribution.

        In the US, a house costs around $100,000, while an automobile engine costs around $100. And can provide up to 100KW, which is well above the maximum a typical household could require. Natural gas is distributed (in most locales), and backup propane or butane wouldn’t add much expense. Current technology could support a local, “smart” grid, such that neighbors could lend power to one another if somebody’s generator fails.

        For industry, local grids might well be appropriate, but even here if each consumer also had generating capacity for its own estimated peak load, the local grid would mostly serve as backup for generator failure. Small installations for pressurizing, or even liquifying methane could support storage in just about any amount required, while the distribution technology is already mature.

        Bottom line: even in the US, the monster grid with monster power plants is potentially obsolete.

      • AK,

        Wrong.

        Unfortunately, you do not know what you are talking about, and won’t have until you go through the process: define requirements, options analysis, cost analysis. Without costings, your comments are meaningless babble. I could guide you, but you won’t take any notice.

      • You cannot back into the future.

        - Paul-Muad’Dib

        But some folks sure try.

    • There are many problems with this talk.
      One thing is we are on internet, it’s grid. Though it’s not a centrally
      controlled grid.
      We all want his cheap hamburger, even if doesn’t solved all our energy
      needs.
      But plants are not efficient in converting sunlight. We already
      have the technology to equal the efficiency plants. We don’t
      have simple unit which converts sunlight like a plant does,
      but we get more energy per square meter, than plants.
      Plants do about 5%, solar panels can do 20%. Using the electricity
      from solar panels at about 50% efficiency, we can split water.
      This makes solar panel 10% efficient at making H2 and O2.
      But having something that makes electricity is generally more useful
      that chemical energy of H2 and O2.
      Other part of it is H2 is useless without O2. Or O2 is as much a source
      of energy as any fuel.
      There other ways to have personalized energy with having to have
      have something- not have something which can be robbed and broken.
      And this whole idea about need double the energy needs is not necessary
      true. Nor that a new nuclear plant per 1 and 1/2 days would not be enough.
      And of course one could have 100,000 nuclear plants per day.
      But anyhow he is essentially talking nanotechnology, but it’s not going to work out that we get one device which the nanotechnology and if that improbably event occurs to get one nanotechnology invention- it’s inadequate.

      Other part that I see as wrong is idea we going to get 3 billion new people.
      What going mostly get is more old people:
      “Before 1949, for instance, the illiteracy rate in Mainland China was 80 percent, and life expectancy was a meager 35 years. ”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China_%281949%E2%80%9376%29
      China: year,2000: 71.38 year, 2012: 74.84
      http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=ch&v=30
      And this:
      http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/china-health-miracle
      So China in about 50 year as almost doubled it’s life expectancy and this occurring global [though not dramatic as China {generally}], so significant difference in the future will be far more older people.
      So seeing and will see higher life expectancy in highest economic growth countries such as China and India.
      Other countries such as Africa and Middle East are not showing as much economic growth- improvement but mixed.
      Or in 20 years India and China could fit the definition of being transformed and rest of world may have improved.
      A solution in CO2 emission would be cheap natural gas for China and India. First, they capable of doing this.
      Second both India and China will hit wall with every increasing coal use-
      so capable and a need to do it.
      The problem is other parts of world, is the political will to increase economic growth for all it’s citizens.
      And what’s working in china and India is the method which this guy says doesn’t work.

  33. Judith writes:
    “My personal research interest in hydropower is in providing probabilistic forecasts of streamflow and hydropower”

    I’ll second David L. Hagen | November 9, 2013 at 7:45 pm above. Pay attention to the Hale cycle when you analyze river flow data but don’t generalize what you find to other regions. My own feeling is that here lies the interface between cosmic rays and climate.

  34. I don’t care for articles like this. A litany of problems, never bothering to consider the advantages. Here is an example:

    “Their reservoirs capture chemicals, fertilizer runoff, human waste and all kinds of trash.”
    Perhaps the new economy generated by cheap power will allow for things like Sewage Plants, for instance. Perhaps China will get to a Western world in which women put out so much energy they stop reproducing, and that will solve the population problem as opposed to the “by the gun” approach they have in China.

    Who knows, perhaps the bad water isn’t as bad as the destitute circumstances many Chinese live in.

    Articles like this one tend to polarize people. But, the real people, the people who have to live with the consequences should this person’s vision survive, I wonder how they feel?

  35. David, thank you very much for your reference to my work (here and elsewhere). I am really grateful.

    Judith, if you are interested to see a view on hydropower different from (perhaps opposite to) that of the article you discuss in your post, here is a couple of recent articles of mine:

    Scale of water resources development and sustainability: Small is beautiful, large is great, http://itia.ntua.gr/1108/

    Reconciling hydrology with engineering, http://itia.ntua.gr/1405/

    The views on dams and hydropower are controversial and one reason is the influence of economic interests related to energy production. For example, private energy companies in Greece are not happy that the engagement of hydropower plants (belonging to the public sector up to now) lowers the energy price at times of peak energy demand.

    On the other hand it was now understood, even by the World Bank, that there cannot be renewable energy of any type without strong hydropower infrastructure (the reasons are explained in the publications above). The World Bank decided to re-engage in large-scale hydropower infrastructure after having withdrawn from it for the past two decades. See their 2013 report:

    Toward a sustainable energy future for all : directions for the World Bank Group’s energy sector, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/07/18016002/toward-sustainable-energy-future-all-directions-world-bank-group%C2%92s-energy-sector

  36. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    ordvic asks [very reasonably] “Why doesn’t he [Daniel Nocera] start a company”

    Question by ordvic, enterprise-oriented links by FOMD!

    Conclusion  The future that Big Carbon advocates ain’t just short-sighted, life-destroying, and anti-Jeffersonian … it’s boring and stupid.

    Humanity’s real future is gonna be *far* more interesting than Big Carbon’s self-serving frack/strip/choke/poison/drown roadmap.

    Dave Springer and Jim Hansen *both* will be satisfied!

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • You are clearly totally lacking in foresight Fan:

      As we’re all exploring, playing, biohacking DNA in front of computers, in labs, garages or at home, I look forward to the day when an innovation in biotechnology is just as likely to come from an industrial biotech lab in San Francisco as it is from the mind of a young biohacker in a home DIY Biolab.

      You complain about the risk from radiation from insufficient safety in fission power plants, but let this sort of risk go unmentioned? I can imagine what type of complaints we’d hear from you by hindsight!

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      AK out-gasses “You complain about the risk from radiation from insufficient safety in fission power plants, but let this sort of [bio/quantum] risk go unmentioned?”

      The Denialist Creed spouted by AK, links to Heinlein’s classic novel The Rolling Stones provided by FOMD.

      The teen-age Stone family twins, Castor and Pollux, are refurbishing the nuclear reactor of the Stone family space-ship (inside city limits!)

      Castor explained that they were about to close up the pre­heater. Mr. Stone nodded. “Moving right along – good! Wait a minute; You’ll just have to tear it down again to put in the – Or did they send those gaskets out to the ship? I didn’t think they had come in yet?”

      “What gaskets?” Pollux said innocently. Hazel glanced quickly at him but said nothing.

      “The gaskets for the intermediate injector sequence, of course.”

      “Oh, those!” Pollux shrugged. “They were okay, absolutely perfect to nine decimal places – so we put ‘em back in.”

      “Oh, you did? That’s interesting. Tomorrow you can take them out again – and I’ll stand over you when you put the new ones in.”

      Castor took over. “But Dad, Hazel said they were okay!”

      Roger Stone looked at his mother. “Well, Hazel?”

      She hesitated. She knew that she had not been sufficiently emphatic in telling the twins that their father’s engineering instructions were to be carried out to the letter; on the other hand she had told them to check with him. Or had she? ‘The gaskets were okay, Roger. No harm done.”

      He looked at her thoughtfully. “So you saw fit to change my instructions? Hazel, are you itching to be left behind?”

      She noted the ominously gentle tone of his voice and checked an angry reply. “No,” she said simply.

      “”No” what?”

      “No, Captain.”

      “Not captain yet, perhaps, but that’s the general idea.” He turned to his sons. “I wonder if you two yahoos understand the nature of this situation?”

      Question  Why do good things happen with teenagers run nuclear reactors in Heinlein’s world, and bad things happen when TEPCO managers run nuclear reactors in Fukushima?

      Answer  Heinlein wrote juvenile fantasies, TEPCO maximized the corporate bottom-line by skimping on public safety.

      Does this mean that Heinlein’s novels should have been suppressed? No it means the opposite. We should be inspired by these visions — and grow up to make them real.

      Conclusion  Yes, humanity’s 21st century future is gonna be *far* more interesting than Big Carbon’s self-serving short-sighted frack/strip/choke/poison/drown roadmap.

      That will be good, eh AK? Provided (in Heinlein’s/Berry’s words) “Denialist yahoos come to understand the nature of humanity’s situation!”

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • That will be good, eh AK? Provided (in Heinlein’s/Berry’s words) “Denialist yahoos come to understand the nature of humanity’s situation!”

        This from one of the biggest deniers around this joint?

        Seems to me Heinlein’s characters are living exactly the sort of world socialists like you don’t like: one where people who make mistakes die. Those characters are the product of several generations of genetic and cultural evolution in an environment where indulgent self-deception results in immediate death. For a good understanding of Heinlein’s approach, consider the issue of the original ending of Podkayne of Mars

        Contrast this with today’s type of teenagers in their mothers’ basements, “biohacking DNA in front of computers”.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        AK gets excited because “[Heinlein juvenile] characters are the product of several generations of genetic and cultural evolution in an environment where indulgent self-deception results in  immediate death  inexorable death

        Ideological fantasies by AK, scientific realities by FOMD.

        Practical question  Immediate death-by-stupidity, global death-by-stupidity, in the end there’s not much difference is there AK?

        Conclusion  Science-respecting folks wisely reject Big Carbon’s self-serving short-sighted willfully ignorant frack/strip/choke/poison/drown roadmap for humanity.

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Ideological fantasies by AK, scientific realities by FOMD.

        Futeristic fantasies by Robert Heinlein, ideological rhetoric by FOMD. Heinlein was competing for readers’ “beer money”, FOMD is using pseudo-scientific scare propaganda to advance a socialist agenda.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        AK reminds us “Heinlein was competing for readers’ “beer money”” whereas Big Carbon oligarchs seek to acquire and control ALL the money, in perpetuity

        Juvenile fantasies by AK, adult-level science/economics/morality by FOMD.

        Thank you for showing to Climate Etc readers the essential elements of juvenile denialist cognition, AK!

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Have you considered the career similarities between Hansen and Philby?

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        AK asks [bizarrely] “Have you considered the career similarities between [scientist James] Hansen and [arch-spy Kim] Philby?”

        Thank you for your bizarre question, AK!

        Hmmmm … KP was demonstrably addicted to booze, womanizing, and treason, while JH remains demonstrably committed to large-scale scientific collaborations and his grandchildren.

        Conclusion  JH’s career to date shows *far* broader professionalism, commitment, talent, energy, and creativity than KP’s!

        Most folks appreciate that, eh AK?

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Those aren’t similarities. I was thinking more, for example, of how Philby visited Vienna, and Hansen visited Japan, in the ’60′s a hotbed of Red subversion, both Soviet and Chinese. Or perhaps the way each infiltrated himself into a Cold-War-critical agency of their nations’ governments.

        NOTE: I’M NOT MAKING ANY ACCUSATIONS! But the similarities are interesting, and Hansen’s subsequent efforts to turn his climate deceptions to the destruction of Western Capitalism certainly make me suspicious.

        And thank you, FOMDeception, for making such a transparent effort to divert attention with a straw squirrel.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        AK asserts “NOTE: I’M NOT MAKING ANY ACCUSATIONS [that James Hansen is the agent of a globe-spanning conspiracy (details not otherwise specified)] …”

        Your novel perceptions regarding James Hansen key role in a global conspiracy are appreciated AK!

        Conspiracy-centric cognition will perceive further evidence in James Hansen’s keynote talk (scheduled for tomorrow) at the conference On Earth As It Is In Heaven: A Pan-Orthodox Conference On Putting Orthodox Theology and Ecology into Practice.”

        `Cuz we all know for sure, there’s gotta be a commie/illuminati/green conspiracy of *some* kind, that’s at work *somewhere*, right AK?

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        AK points to Liberation theology

        AK, that’s *so* 20th century. Nowadays it’s sustainment theology.”

        “Nature is party to all our deals and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”

        These matters turn upon affection and morality, not upon economics or ideology, eh AK?

        \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Fanny. Keep talking.

      • The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      • Speaking of Communist plots:

        And fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles And all who believed were together and had all things in common and they sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all men, as every man had need.

        Acts 2:43-45 from BibleGateway.com

    • anti-Jeffersonian? So against slavery then?

  37. The whole brouhaha about new hydroelectric power plants in China is a case of “dammed if you do and damned if you don’t”.

    China’s leaders are doing what they suppose is best for the largest majority of the Chinese population and for the economic development of underdeveloped regions as well as the nation as a whole – just as FDR did the same thing with the TVA and other large hydroelectric dams built during the Great Depression.

    On a much smaller scale, of course, the same debate is going on here in Switzerland regarding Swiss hydro power (accounting for over half of the total here).

    In the Swiss case, politicians bowed to post-Fukushima green pressures to follow Germany in announcing a mandated shutdown of all nuclear power plants (currently accounting for a bit less than half) – but (to the dismay of the greens) without setting a time deadline for this to occur.

    It has become apparent that wind and solar will be unable to fill the gap, despite heavy subsidies, because of their inherent low reliability.

    A European-wide network of wind and solar would be the solution. Swiss pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoirs were to become “Europe’s battery”, where intermittently available wind and solar power could be stored to meet continuous demand during the 70+% of the time that they are not producing any power. Two new 1000MW plants are under construction today, with this concept in mind.

    But there are some problems with this concept in addition to the roughly 25% inherent energy loss. The hydroelectric pump-storage systems apparently operate most efficiently at a cycle time of five to thirty hours, to cover daily cycles. But the wind and solar plants often are out of service for days or weeks, rather than hours, especially in winter, when power demand is highest in Europe.

    As the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche put it in an article on October 10, 2013 by Alex Baur:

    The unsolved – and, using current technology, unsolvable – storage problem makes the randomly generated wind and solar power, with all its fluctuations, practically worthless. Electric companies are forced to purchase this intermittent power, whether they can use it or not. And since wind and solar are so unreliable, they are forced to keep a reserve in standby for every watt of “eco-power” – a duplication, which is totally inefficient both economically and environmentally.

    Switzerland (that has no fossil fuels) is now looking at installing standby power plants based on imported natural gas, which are more efficient on an intermittent basis than the hydro plants. Even so, these plants would use 90% as much natural gas to operate the 70+% of the time that wind/solar do not operate as they would to run continuously, so there would be a minimal reduction in CO2 generated.

    The problem here is seen as being caused by government intervention: by arbitrarily mandating the exodus from nuclear power with no real alternate and giving massive subsidies to ineffective wind/solar schemes, the energy ministry has painted itself into a corner.

    Let’s hope the Chinese policy-makers for energy are a bit more astute than those here. They, like their Swiss counterparts, will undoubtedly try to do what they think is best for their inhabitants, but will they be successful?

    Max

    PS Whatever the Chinese rulers decide to do, it affects principally the Chinese people, so it is their decision to make, whether we happen to like it or not.

    • Heh, hating your yellowcake and feating it, too.
      ==========

    • Manacker,

      In the Swiss case, politicians bowed to post-Fukushima green pressures to follow Germany in announcing a mandated shutdown of all nuclear power plants (currently accounting for a bit less than half)

      Ah! The problem with pushing democracy down to the level of the plebs, eh? :)

      BTW, I am just stirring. I reckon democracy pushed down to the lowest possible level will be great. It’s going to take a while to get there though. Switzerland is leading the way. And the population will probably see the error of their ways more quickly by being responsible for the decision to block nuclear and I expect will reverse their decision more quickly than other more centrally controlled countries would do in the same situation. For example look how long it is taking UK to fond a way to back track from their loony energy and wind farm policies.

      • Peter Lang

        Someone once wrote that the Swiss are motivated by a combination of “pragmatism and greed”.

        That’s not to say that there aren’t those who want to do the “morally right” thing or, in some cases, the “politically correct” thing (as defined for them, for example by an environmental lobby group).

        The Green Party here is discussing a future total ban on all gasoline or Diesel powered vehicles, for example (even hybrids!).

        But Swiss voters usually vote against initiatives when they see that these will cost them a lot of money and that there is no real benefit for anyone.

        There is a growing awareness that the planned exodus from nuclear (initiated by the Fukushima meltdown) was not well thought out and that there is really no viable alternate at this time.

        How long it will take before this awareness sparks a new referendum on energy policy is anyone’s guess. But if electrical power becomes oppressively expensive as a result of the current policy – and especially if there are power shortages and blackouts – such a referendum may happen.

        Max

      • Manacker,

        Very rational. Very pragmatic. Very wise.

        I believe (and so do many others) that Australia would benefit democracy is moved down to a lower level (and I expect the same is true for UK and EU too).

        We can learn from Switzerland.

        The new Australian Government announced policies leading up to the election, that if implemented, would make a modest start.

    • David Springer

      Your statement that wind & solar aren’t producing power 70% of the time is patently untrue. That’s perhaps true for either alone for an area that doesn’t get much sunshine (solar produces whenever the sun is shining which is 50% of the time for many regions). Wind produces practically 24/7 over very large areas because the wind doesn’t stop blowing everywhere at once.

      Both have problems but the one you mention is specifically not one of those problems. The problem is they’re hideously expensive to build and maintain, the output level has unpredictable variation that doesn’t follow demand, and there’s no cost effective way to store the energy so supply and demand can be met. Adding insult to injury it’s liquid transportation fuels that are the larger problem not electricity.

      • David Springer

        It may be higher elsewhere, but in Switzerland, wind plants operate less than 30% of the time, and the same is true for solar plants.

        So they require a backup source of power for the time they are idle.

        Operating a gas-fired plant intermittently as a standby 70% of the time uses ~90% of the gas required to operate it continuously.

        So it makes more sense economically to run the gas fired plant continuously and forget about the wind/solar plant.

        There are exceptions, of course, such as local solar for domestic use, but that’s the way it looks here.

        Max

      • With solar, you can calculate availability. If the panels are on fixed mounts, you only get maximum output for a portion of the day. Depending on time of year, that can reduce output to as low as 25% in bright sunlight. If the sky is overcast, the number drops precipitously. When sizing panels for dedicated devices, 4% of rated output is typically used to guarantee 24 hour output at winter solstice. In Switzerland, 30% is probably optimistic.

        With wind, it depends on a lot of things, but probably the most ideal location in the world is the Columbia River gorge. There, Bonneville Power Authority operates a very large wind farm. They publish availability. Overall, it’s a little less than 50%. Again, extending that to Switzerland, 30% seems about right.

        30% of nameplate capacity is probably on the high side of what can be expected in most locations. This just has to be taken into account when determining amortization. It still might pencil out, depending on local conditions, but don’t assume that adding a 1 MW windmill will add 1 MW to the grid. You’ll be lucky to get 300 KW out of the deal.

        And that’s before docking for transmission and distribution losses.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Table 1 here gives capacity factors and levelised costs for generating technologies.

        http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/electricity_generation.cfm

        Load matching is always required on a daily basis. If the plant is available and generating it makes sense to use wind and solar because the marginal costs – fuel costs – are zero. Hydro has some variable O&M costs but less than dispatchable options except geothermal.

        Only dollars and practicality matter. In the US that’s gas for the foreseeable future.

      • David Springer

        We’re talking past each other. There’s a difference between producing 30% of the time (what was stated) and producing 30% of maximum capacity. If you can produce 24/7 but at only 30% capacity then you can install more to get the needed output 24/7. If the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining then you’re producing at 0% capacity and installing more won’t help. In Texas the wind is always blowing somewhere and we have wind farms pretty much everywhere and a grid that can move the power from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. We have far more wind generation than any other state in the union. Solar is different. Even in Texas it doesn’t shine constantly. But we have big regions where it shines hard 300 days per year so when solar gets cheap (one way or another it will) we’ll be sitting pretty. Switzerland is probably out of luck as it isn’t big enough to guarantee the wind will always be blowing somewhere and it’s too far north for decent solar exposure. For the good the planet they should move the whole little country south 500 miles or more.

  38. Retrograde Orbit

    “dammed if you do and damned if you don’t” is exactly right!
    It applies to absolutely everything we do (or don’t do). Everything has benefits and costs. And the “costs” often mean some amount of human suffering. Either now or in the future.
    Generally we do things when “the benefits outweigh the costs”, and that is a great approach to deal with this issue. But when cost is human suffering, it means: The benefits justify that we impose suffering in others.
    And at that point we are crossing a fine line into Machiavellism or Fascism. We have to be careful. (And it is a bit naive to assume that there will be suffering only now but in the future it will be all benefits).
    I think that is what the article on the Chinese hydro-power dams really alludes to. That the Chinese government implements projects that – yes – are to the benefit of the nation, but recklessly ignores the suffering it may impose on individual citizens.

    • Retrograde Orbit

      Yes. There are always “winners and losers”.

      And with long-range projects, such as these, it is very difficult to establish who will “win” and who will “lose”.

      When FDR initiated the TVA, the decision was based on creating a lot of jobs for unskilled unemployed people, helping an economically underdeveloped region (the Tennessee Valley) become less impoverished and providing flood control for a region that had frequent floods. But in the process there were farmers that had to give up their family farms, old people that were forced to leave their homes, etc. – so some individual citizens suffered (as will undoubtedly be the case with the Chinese dams).

      The real “payoff” came quite unexpectedly in WWII, when Oak Ridge could be powered by abundant and cheap hydroelectric power.

      Very few people today believe that FDR’s decision to create the TVA was a mistake.

      Let’s hope history judges the decision of the Chinese rulers the same.

      The thing is we don’t know today how this will play out.

      Max

  39. You are 400 times more likely to win the lottery than to suffer any negative consequence of providing and using the energy that powers modernity.

  40. What is the net delta-W/m2 due to the increased atmospheric water vapor from irrigation?

    What does the reduced sediment load and increased nutrient load do to biochemical reactions in the near-shore ocean?

    • That would suggest that one has a software design approach to initially target the Early Adapters, then make the user interface easier (after feedback) for the Early Majority and then relaunch as a tested/robust platform for the conservative, remaining, population.

    • Sweet website and communication philosophy. Love the truffles you nose up.

  41. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    willard (@nevaudit) advises DocMartyn “Drop the stick and back slowly from the [neural development] horse, please.”

    Willard, please let me say that DocMartyn and I substantially agree in regard to the present status of the best available neurodevelopment science“ (namely, we agree that developmental neuroscience has a long way to go).

    Perhaps DocMartyn disagrees with science/policy interfaces like James Hansen’s keynote talk (scheduled for tomorrow) at the conference On Earth As It Is In Heaven: A Pan-Orthodox Conference On Putting Orthodox Theology and Ecology into Practice

    Fortunately, it is *not* necessary that scientists all think alike, or act alike, in regard to the interface of science with policy.

    Very plausibly, Hansen’s keynote address will be much-discussed around the world … and much-disparaged by denialist ideologues.

    Good! Let no-one restrict the public discourse in this regard!

    PS  Please let me say DocMartyn, plainly and sincerely, that your autism-related research receives my highest appreciation and respect, and I wish you and all your colleagues every success in helping to create (by any and all medical/scientific means) an “Earth More Nearly as it is in Heaven.”

    Best wishes are extended to you and all your colleagues in science and medicine, DocMartyn!

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  42. Dr. Strangelove

    Judith,
    The study by Fan Xiao linking Zipingpu dam to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake is interesting but I don’t believe it. The water level in the reservoir decreased by 52 m when the earthquake occurred. The Coulomb stress decreased but still higher than the natural stress since the water level was higher than the pre-dam level. Earthquake was not due to changes in Coulomb stress. If it were, it would occur during maximum stress changes, which happened in 2005 when water rose by 80 m to its highest level.

    That said, dams as well as many human activities such oil drilling, blasting in open pit mines, moving trains, fracking, etc. can cause micro earthquakes. These are small and generally harmless. But deep drilling in engineered geothermal system (EGS) can trigger relatively strong earthquakes that can cause damage to properties.

    As for the Three Gorges dam killing 968 people and 507 missing when floodgates were opened in 2010. The dam was built to control flooding in Yangtze river. In 1998 before the dam was completed, river flood killed 4,150 people and 180 million people were affected. Downstream of the dam must be a permanent danger zone. People should stay away from it.

  43. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That?

  44. Pingback: The paradox of dam-building « DON AITKIN

  45. Quoted: “Dam reservoirs trap silt, which decreases their storage capacity and reduces power generation. Silt no longer carries nutrients down the rivers, and without protective silt…”

    FYI, the Three Gorges Dam specifically is designed to flush silt from the bottom of the reservoir to carry that silt downstream to benefit the farmers downstream. It also slows down the silting up of the dam. They expect to get at least 100 years before the silting in the reservoir needs to be addressed.

    One would think – though I admit no knowledge of – the dams in planning and being constructed now also have this feature.

    …The lower Mississippi River is dredged almost constantly – for economic reasons. There is no reason that the Three Gorges dam and the others being developed wouldn’t be able to be dredged in a similar manner, and for the same basic reasons. After all, with 100 years of hydro power, the dredging energy costs should be a drop in the bucket.

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