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Hydropower and its effect on climate compared to other energy sources

Hydropower, as many of you already know, has the very long history of use. This renewable energy source generates electricity in many countries of the world.

In fact, hydropower currently accounts for two thirds of the electricity generated from renewable energy sources worldwide, and is therefore touted by many as the most important renewable energy source.

Thousands of new hydroelectric power plants are either planned or being constructed across the world. In the wake of ongoing climate change one has to wonder whether this is positive or negative from the environmental point of view.

The general opinion is that the hydropower is environmentally friendly source of energy and therefore much "cleaner" option than using fossil fuels.

However, the latest report published in journal "Environmental Science & Technology" argues that most studies of hydropower's climate effect have not taken into account certain factors, such as changes in carbon dioxide emissions that occur when natural landscapes are flooded to create reservoirs for hydropower plants, as well as the near-term warming from associated methane emissions.

The researchers have studied the data compiled from 1,473 hydroelectric facilities in 104 countries and have also estimated emissions caused by flooding the reservoir. What they found is that "hydropower emissions on average were far greater and thus worse for the climate than emissions from nuclear, solar and wind power installations, but better for the climate than emissions from coal and natural gas utilities."

They also concluded that "the climate benefits of using hydropower instead of fossil fuel-generated power were much smaller in the near-term than the long-term because of the large impact that methane emissions have on warming."

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