There is real hope to counter the gloom and doom predictions of climate change but we must be willing to fight this battle on all fronts. We must keep our foot to the pedal in the race to reduce and eliminate fossil fuel burning, but this effort will be in vain unless the mega and large dam impacts are addressed and necessary action is taken.
Throughout the geologic history of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding continents any natural change in the hydrologic cycle has resulted in climate change in snow and ice covered regions with global implications.
Now, in the blink of a geologic era eye, over the last 60 years, a proliferation of dams began operating on northern rivers flowing toward subarctic and Arctic seas.
The accelerated warming of these northern regions and coastal seas clearly coincides with the growing number of dams and their flow regulation. This has led to a rapid decline in the natural refrigeration mechanisms of climate cooling sea ice and permafrost.
Mega hydropower dams on subarctic and Arctic rivers have in a matter of a few years altered the sensitive hydrologic cycle. For example, “To meet the demand for electricity during cold weather, dams and diversions have increased the winter flow on the La Grande River by eight times (from 18,000 to 141,000 cubic feet per second) in order to store water for the following winter and have eradicated the spring flow (flow reduced from 176,000 to 53,000 cubic feet per second).” (Harper 1992; McCully 1996).
The dams seize and store the spring freshet run-off in inland sea sized reservoirs where the waters are heated by solar radiation all summer. The necessary flow regulation in the frigid subarctic and Arctic winter temperatures requires the warmer reservoir waters to be released all during the cold months so the rivers do not freeze up and compromise dam operations. The resulting heat pollution from these dams and energy losses to coastal currents affects temperatures and ocean currents thousands of miles distant. All spheres of the earth, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the geosphere, and the biosphere are directly affected by the presence and flow regulation of these dams.
Over 50 years ago one scientist, the late Hans Neu, a Canadian government oceanographer, warned his fellow citizens and the Canadian government that the continued build up of large dams across Canada and Russia would impact sea ice, ocean currents, the climate, and devastate marine fisheries.
We are now witnessing the accelerating reality of Hans Neu’s warnings. Although Neu during his lifetime was ignored and silenced by government regulators, politicians, and the hydro industry, he gave us the guiding foundation to build upon for a fuller understanding of the colossal impacts of these dams and what must be done to stop their destruction.
The attachment is a sample collection of quotes from Hans Neu’s scientific papers and excerpts from newspaper articles covering his work that explain why these dams are not clean energy. The conclusion of Neu’s 1964 study on the Gulf of St. Lawrence flow patterns is provided last. The fact that this 1964 study remained unpublished for six years while the Daniel Johnson Dam and Mega Manicougan Reservoir were completed and the continued ignoring and silencing of scientists pleading for intensive study of the global impacts of these dams may one day be recognized as one of the greatest environmental crimes that man has imposed upon the earth.
References Gulf of St. Lawrence Workshop, Bedford Institute 1968
“Biologists plan watchdog role when environment menaced”, The Province , January 8, 1973 page six. Canadian Press
Bruce Little “Dams stop nature’s ways of mighty rivers” Calgary Herald , February 25, 1974 page 39
HJA Neu, Discussion of Environmental Consequences, Hydrological Sciences Bulletin XXI, 3, September 9, 1976, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Hans Neu, Man-Made Storage of Water Resources—A Liability to the Ocean Environment? Part 1, Marine Pollution Journal, Volume 13, No 1, pages 7-12, 1982
Hans Neu, Man-Made Storage of Water Resources—A Liability to the Ocean Environment? Part 2, Marine Pollution Journal, Volume 13, No 1, pages44-47, 1982
Hans Neu, Salinity-Structure, Temperature-Distribution and Transport Mechanism in the St. Lawrence Estuary, National Research Council, Division of Mechanical Engineering, May 1964 (unpublished manuscript)
McCully, Patrick, Silenced Rivers, The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams ,1994
Harper, P.P. 1992. “La Grande Riviere: A Subarctic River and a Hydroelectric Megaproject”, The Rivers Handbook; Hydrological and Ecological Principles, Blackwell Scientific Publications