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Scientists Identify Another Source of Dangerous Greenhouse Gases: Reservoirs (popsci.com) 159

A team of researchers from Canada, Holland, China, the U.S. and Brazil "found that greenhouse gas emissions from man-made reservoirs were likely equal to the equivalent of one gigaton of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every year...a little less than one-sixth of the United State's greenhouse gas emissions." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Popular Science: A reservoir is usually created by damming a river, overflowing the banks and flooding the surrounding area, creating a man-made lake...the perfect conditions for microbes to generate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane (a gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide)... "When reservoirs are first flooded there's organic matter in the soil and vegetation that can be converted by microbes into methane and carbon dioxide," John Harrison, a co-author of the paper, tells Popular Science.

"Also, reservoirs because they are in line in rivers, they receive a lot of organic matter and organic sediment from upstream that can fuel the production of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide." Harrison says that reservoirs also tend to occur in areas where fertilizers are used on the surrounding land. Runoff from those fertilizers into bodies of water can cause algal blooms that can also produce more methane and carbon dioxide.

If the world's reservoirs were a country, they'd be #8 on a list of polluters -- right behind Brazil, China, the EU and the U.S.
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Scientists Identify Another Source of Dangerous Greenhouse Gases: Reservoirs

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  • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @12:37PM (#52999651) Journal

    Because this runoff would go to the oceans. Would that somehow be better? How?

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @12:47PM (#52999701)

      It doesn't really matter. Ultimately the problem is people. The only way to save the planet is to get rid of all the people. People dam rivers, raise cows, run industry and just generally destroy the environment. I guess the planet is doomed. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's about the long and short of it. People still like to bury their heads in the sand about these matters. They like to think that if Musk (and it MUST be Musk) builds a 35k EV and some candidates of choice take office that everything will work out and the future will arrive and in another decade we'll be living the good life that some 1950s sci-fi b-films made it out to be. They don't want to hear that they need to stop eating meat (Yes, even you "free range" fuckers. Even free range is unsustainable fo

        • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

          Chicken and pork are fairly sustainable (when measuring both water and co2 per gram protein), both in line with efficient vegetables.

          Red meat is the real environmental disaster.

        • i guess. the only real answer here is "tough shit". human beings have been pretty good at figuring out how to survive in a very wide array of environments. whatever harm we're doing to the environment, we'll figure out a way to get through, just like other forms of life on the planet will adapt as well.

          cajoling anyone, anywhere, at anytime to reduce consumption (aka standard of living) is a non-starter. it's a pipe dream that green-leaning lefties try to impose on the rest of us. The right answer is to in

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Hylandr ( 813770 )

        FFS the planet is NOT going to die, there's nothing to 'save' it from. Evidence abounds proving there's been *huge* climate changes in the past prior to mankind doing jack shit like farming, storing water or cooking our meals the Earth has continued to live on and support life and will continue to do so despite a single degree shift in global temperatures. Animals, insects and plants will adjust and continue on like they have through greater changes the last several *Billion* years.

        You need to be reminded t

        • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

          Mod me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

          The truth is seldom appreciated and I am not surprised to be modded down for telling it.

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          I can make the case that 7 billion is too many people. Maintaining 7 billion people at the standard of living most civilized countries are accustomed to is an enormous drain on the planet's resources. And that population is continuing to climb. There are over 1 billion vehicles in use by humans on this planet. A billion cars, trucks and buses. Think about all the energy produced to house 7 billion people. I know in a lot of third world countries they use a fraction of what places like Europe and the U

          • Ok, re-read your post and apologize for being environmentally conscious with the excess of non environmentally friendly things you posses. If you believe people are part of the problem, then before you pontificate you should of already been part of the solution. Which you self posted that you are not.

            I'm hoping you can see why some of us look at you and just want to slap you in the back of the head to reboot your brain.

            • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

              My giving up all I own and living in the forest like an animal will do as much good as spitting in the ocean to fill it up. I'm 1 out of over 7 billion and I'm just as human as all the others. I use LED lighting and have a high efficiency heat pump and do a lot of other things to limit my output but really I do all that more to save money than out of any though it actually matters much. If you live a modern lifestyle with an apartment or house that comes with all the amenities that modern life has then y

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            We can sustain the current level of population with the standard of living of those in the US for the entire world indefinitely using current renewable technology. The problem is psychology and economics, not technology or population.
        • FFS the planet is NOT going to die, there's nothing to 'save' it from. Evidence abounds proving there's been *huge* climate changes in the past prior to mankind doing jack shit like farming, storing water or cooking our meals the Earth has continued to live on and support life and will continue to do so despite a single degree shift in global temperatures. Animals, insects and plants will adjust and continue on like they have through greater changes the last several *Billion* years.

          You need to be reminded that we are also indigenous to the planet and have every right to live on it just like every creature you mentioned.

          If you feel like mankind must be removed from the planet then please prove the conviction of your position by starting with yourself.

          A very good example of someone intelligent saying nothing untrue but coming to the wrong conclusions. Yes, there certainly have been giant shifts in climate in this planet without any human involvement whatsoever. This in no way precludes humanity's ability to cause a catastrophe. That's like saying your grass lawn only gets wet when it rains, and it can never be made wet any other way (be it intentionally or accidentally). Of course the earth will in all most likelihood continue supporting life in the

      • The only way to save the planet is to get rid of all the people.

        Do not worry, the planet is doing just fine, we are only destroying ourselves, and once that is completed the planet will continue doing just fine.

      • The only way to save the planet is to get rid of all the people. (Emphasis added.)

        Not ALL of them. Just the first 3 to 5 billion you come across.

      • Planet don't care. It's been happily spinning along for four thousand, five hundred and ninety-seven million years before the human race came along, and will be here for at least another four thousand million years after we are gone to join the dodo, the woolly mammoth, homo habilis, Australopithecus, the dinosaurs, the Arthropleura, the Cameroceras and the trilobite.

        The manner of our passing, or, indeed if the genus Homo lasts as long as, say Dinosauria, is a far more interesting question [deviantart.net].

    • by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @01:05PM (#52999815)
      These are fair and cogent questions... How did you get it here?
      I think they are making the issue about fresh soil providing nutrients for microbes at a higher rate due to submersion induced mobility of both the microbes and the nutrients. The thing is, if you have real soil (i.e. dirt+biomass+microbes±other_critters) then that process was happening, albeit at a reduced rate. It's called composting and that has been happening since the first green thing died. And microbes would have gotten around to all the available nutrients at some point. As to rivers fueling the process, I would be very concerned about the fertilizer load carried down stream, but the normal "payload" of biomass was going to break down somewhere in any case. If the rivers biomass were to travel to the sea uninterrupted, I would expect different critters to be waiting to snack the stuff back into farts. Have to add one more sentence because I don't want to end a post with the word farts.
      OK, trying again this time we end with egg salad...
      • by slashrio ( 2584709 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @04:48PM (#53000887)

        ...then that process was happening, albeit at a reduced rate. It's called composting...

        Composting is an aerobic process which does not release methane.
        Rotting (under water), which is the issue here, happens anaerobically and releases methane.

        • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

          Someone better get rid of the fucking ocean then. That's the biggest body of water right there. Problem solved.

          • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

            Oh and Drain the lakes too.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            There are very few trees at the bottom of the ocean.

            The problem is not plants underwater. The problem is lots of land-plants suddenly getting submerged and dying + rotting.

            Come on people. Are you really all this stupid?

            Otoh, I read about this problem some 20 years ago, so I don't understand why it's a new idea all of a sudden.

            • Suddenly? I haven't seen a wave of new reservoirs sweeping across the nation in the recent past. I'd be willing to bet $5 this study was at least partially funded by a wind turbine manufacturer...
    • Because this runoff would go to the oceans. Would that somehow be better? How?

      Some of it will be released immediately by same processes as in reservoirs, but a good part will be sequestered, either semi-permanently or at least on the order of 100 years. On the other hand, in shallow water there is nowhere for the carbon to go but up.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The implications is the writer hasn't grasped the difference between releasing fossil carbon and concentrating emissions of recently fixed carbon.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      POPSCI tends to be all about propaganda science, rather than good science (they use the science stories to sell corporate propaganda, advertising and right wing politics, definitely a site to be avoided). The reservoirs all allow the continuous irrigation of carbon dioxide absorbing plants in people's gardens, so availability of water for irrigation and plant growth, is far greater than the initial and fairly short lived high methane production, especially consider the claims about microscopic organisms th

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves please; the EU is not a country.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also, there seem to be three countries missing from the list. And why was the US put last in that list? It's #2. The list, in case anyone's wondering, is China, US, EU, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil (and then Indonesia, Mexico, Iran), in that order.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      EU is a confederation of independent states, just like the initial forming of The United States. It's not incorrect to group them together. But apparently it offends some Americans to see other countries work together.
  • by CCarrot ( 1562079 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @12:45PM (#52999697)

    To hydro, or not to hydro--that is the question:
    Whether 'tis nobler on the earth to suffer
    The slings and varied emissions of outrageous power generation
    Or to take arms against a sea of microbes
    And by opposing end them.

    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @01:21PM (#52999875) Journal

      I'm not nearly as poetic as you, but:

      > To hydro, or not to hydro--that is the question

      That question was answered in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. We did put hydroelectric dams in most of the places where geography makes it attractive to do so.

      There's a lot to be said good about hydro-electric, and some bad. Like nuclear, it provides steady, reliable, clean energy, and like nuclear a worst-case accident could be really bad. The collapse of the Banqiao hydroelectric dam killed about a quarter million people, for example.

      Differences between hydro and nuclear include:
      Political feasibility: until recently, it was fashionable in environmental circles to bash nuclear and promote hydro. That's changing.

      Scalablity/growth: As mentioned, most of the good hydro spots are already in use. New nuclear plants can be built in many places.

      Safety record: While both could theoretically cause many causalties in worst-case scenario, hydro actually does have such accidents occassionally, and a million people have actually been affected. Nuclear has had three pretty scary close calls, but nothing has actually happened like Banqaio etc have for hydro.

  • by Bomarc ( 306716 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @12:52PM (#52999737) Homepage
    This is so one sided, I'm surprise.. (well,maybe not) that it wasn't stopped earlier.
    From the article:

    "For one, when reservoirs are first flooded there’s organic matter in the soil and vegetation that can be converted by microbes into methane and carbon dioxide. Also, reservoirs because they are in line in rivers, they receive a lot of organic matter and organic sediment from upstream that can fuel the production of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide."

    Okay... these are not going to be an issue in a un-dammed river (or natural lake)?

    Harrison says that reservoirs also tend to occur in areas where fertilizers are used on the surrounding land. Runoff from those fertilizers into bodies of water can cause algal blooms that can also produce more methane and carbon dioxide.

    A level of being redundant... Okay... these are not going to be an issue in a un-dammed river? And ... they are going to blame reservoirs for non-associated (man caused) pollution?

    Someone is very anti-reservoirs (read pro coal/gas)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Okay... these are not going to be an issue in a un-dammed river (or natural lake)?

      Rivers are very different than reservoirs when it comes to hydraulically shaped biological activity, so yes. Just check out any number of effects of human infrastructure on rivers like the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Yellow, the Thames, the Mississippi, etc.

      these are not going to be an issue in a un-dammed river? And ... they are going to blame reservoirs for non-associated (man caused) pollution?

      Blame? Try recognizing the impact of other actions that in turn contribute to a local effect.

      But yes, flow to the sea is also an issue. See marine dead zones for more.

    • Okay... these are not going to be an issue in a un-dammed river (or natural lake)?

      Clear Lake [wikipedia.org], California's largest and most inaccurately named naturally-formed lake, grew to its current size because a massive landslide closed off its egress. In that case, a natural lake will have had the same problem, yes. However, it is 480,000 years old. It now has other problems, entirely man-made ones like mercury contamination due to mining.

    • Not pro coal/gas but rather militant luddite. Reservoirs and hydro power are a great way to store energy. If you are hell bent on using solar and wind at the expense of all other forms of energy, you have to find a way to store it so that it's available when you need it. Using the excess energy to pump water up into a reservoir is a great way to do this. The fact that there are people who want to bork this only goes to show that those people would be happier living 200 years ago. Ironically, these peop

    • I agree! This makes no sense as anything other than an attempt to insight another energy-wasting movement!

      Regardless of whether or not reservoirs contribute significant greenhouse gasses, we humans have a responsibility to devote fully adequate resources to mitigate threatening issues of any kind.

      And it starts with GOOD leadership and national policies. Like, for example, force NATO members to pay their fair share so we can reduce our military budget so we can channel more resources (i.e. money, ...) to
  • The carbon cycle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xenna ( 37238 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @12:52PM (#52999741)

    AFAIK co2 isn't bad in itself. Without co2 we'd have much more serious problems than we have now.

    The point is that the co2 equilibrium is disturbed by the fact that man dig or pumps up fossil fuels that have been stored for millions of years thereby adding co2 to the atmosphere.

    Burning wood, rotting vegetation, farting animals and bubbling reservoirs are part of the co2 balance already so are not the cause of the current problem.

    (This is how I understand it which - admittedly - isn't saying much)

    • Correct. In fact, CO2 just crossed the 400/ppm threshold, meaning we're all DOOMED! except for the fact that CO2 concentration was higher than that in the Jurassic and Triassic Periods at about 2000/ppm and has been as high as 5000/ppm. The Jurassic and Triassic was the Age of the Dinosaurs and had features such as bracken ferns as tall as trees because, you know, plants like CO2, so vegans should be happy.

      Even during several ice ages the CO2 content was higher than it is now BECAUSE CO2 isn't the real issu

    • by zmooc ( 33175 )

      Obviously it's a matter of perspective, but I think you'd have to go to great lengths to consider CO2 not bad in itself. Look at any random planet that has a a lot of CO2 in its atmosphere. Venus comes to mind. It rains lead over there. Only very little CO2 is needed to turn our planet into an oven. The problem is not just that the equilibrium is disturbed; the problem is that humanity totally depends on an equilibrium that's almost indistuinguishable from there being no CO2 at all; even 400ppm (0.04%!) is

  • I order to be green you must go red. No not be socialist silly commies, no red as in Mars. (Who do you think is causes most of our problems in the first place?) You can't damage the "environment" of a planet that doesn't have one. We can turn Earth back into wild life park and let all the wolves and tigers eat the dirty hippies stinking up the forests.
  • by nadaou ( 535365 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @01:12PM (#52999843) Homepage

    This tired old argument again? It's been known for years, usually brought up as part of anti-hydro power campaigns typically funded by our pro-fossil fuel lobbying friends.

    While not good, this isn't really that bad. Consider for a moment why we call them fossil fuels. That is taking carbon which was long out of play and adding it into the system.

    With lakes dams and still rivers it is burping up atmospheric carbon which was already in play over the last decades or centuries anyway and wasn't neccesarily on track to be sequestered. That orgaic matter recently took the carbon out of the atmosphere, thus no net change to the amount of carbon in the system. If it comee up as methane that's not good for 125 years or so until it breaks down to CO2 again, but that pales in comparison to the effect of ancient carbon being added to the system.

  • Have you seen the decay beneath an old growth canopy - it's simply a solid carpet of decay - producing CO2 and methane at an astronomical rate. And that doesn't even mention the amount of CO2 and methane produced by the billions of creatures wihch call the forest home. Old growth can't possibly expect to keep up with the CO2 generation, and does noting to ameliorate the methane production. What we need to do is completely deforest the planet and plant new, fast growth trees to both eliminate the forest flo

    • Have you seen the decay beneath an old growth canopy - it's simply a solid carpet of decay - producing CO2 and methane at an astronomical rate.

      The material below the canopy that's decaying is, of course, returning to the atmosphere carbon that was removed from the atmosphere by the forest in the first place: net carbon emissions, zero.

      Old growth forests are, for the most part, very close to net carbon neutral.

      To remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the biomass produced has to be sequestered.

      • *snooty uptight asshole voice*The material below the canopy that's decaying is, of course, returning to the atmosphere carbon that was removed from the atmosphere by the forest in the first place: net carbon emissions, zero.

        Well chuckles, wat about the methane mentioned, which is 1000x more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2? CO2 is so ridiculously bad at being a greenhouse gas the average temperature hardly moved even as humanity doubled emissions.

        As stated the only solution is to scorch the forests.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        To remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the biomass produced has to be sequestered.

        Roll the logging trucks.

        Grow young trees and cut them down before they die, fall down and rot (producing CO2 and methane).

  • It's those little bastards that taught us how to do this. The little anti-environmental vermin have been polluting the planet for millennia

    • Kill all beaver! It's those little bastards that taught us how to do this. The little anti-environmental vermin have been polluting the planet for millennia

      We did [wikipedia.org]. The North American population was 60 million animals. There's something less than 12 million of them now. Most were dead by the 1830s.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Eat a beaver for the environment!

  • Why would you class "the EU" along with single countries?

    Does saying that the US pollutes more than any single first-world European country hurt for you?

    • The countries that make up the EU report their emissions as one entity. There is a single goal that is set at the upper level after discussion between all of the country representatives and each country is free to meet that goal in a method that best suits the country. When going to climate talks all of the countries go but act under the EU authority.

  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Sunday October 02, 2016 @03:43PM (#53000557) Homepage

    Let's just get rid of the people. They are clearly very bad for the environment, no matter what they do or don't do. And we have the technology to decimate the population in like half an hour, and cool down the earth as well through nuclear winter. How's that for problem solving?

    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      How's that for problem solving?

      I think that the stock markets might crash if that happened.

      • by sinij ( 911942 )

        I think that the stock markets might crash if that happened.

        Not if we do it correctly. If everyone is dead, but trading algorithms left running then likely markets will be sustained and our investments will be safe.

  • By this same argument wetlands (swamps, estuaries, ponds, etc) are major polluters. Just more clickbait as 'science'.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is nothing but anti-hydropower propaganda. Probably funded by fossil fuel interests.

    Go stand next to a man-made reservoir. Then stand near a fossil fuel power plant. Then you tell me which pollutes more.

    Hint: some people will pay extra to live in a house next to a reservoir. Whereas houses near fossil power plants are dirt cheap, because absolutely no one thinks that's a good place to live.

  • Before the 1940s, Mississippi used to have horrible flooding problems whenever the Mississippi River got high. That effectively caused the same problems reservoirs cause today. That has been fixed with a series of levies and reservoirs.

    Also, at some point reservoirs become semi-natural lakes. That organic matter rots and they are like any other lake. Its not like they keep emitting greenhouse gasses forever.

  • The greenhouse gas forming from flooding the land is a one-time effect after the flooding. And the organic material that is deposited from the river would have went into the ocean otherwise, where it would also rot and form greenhouse gases. The reservoirs just change the location of this greenhouse gas generation, not the amount.

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