We've been skeptical of the Three Gorges Dam project for a number of years. It isn't that dams are a bad idea, they are a great idea, it's just the the ecologists who endorsed the thing invented the absolutely perfect outcomes and assumed it would happen.
What they needed, was a little falsification (see Falsification - Why Women And Scientists Make The Best Chess Players) but instead what they used was irrational sunny optimism (see US Ecologist Tells 1.5 Million Displaced Chinese Peasants To Find A Silver Lining In Three Gorges Dam) and now, it turns out, it has increased pollution, is a huge risk for what used to be relatively minor disasters (flooding by the Yangtze) turning into disasters of Biblical proportions and, oh yeah, those million and a half forcefully displaced people have lousy lives so US activists could coo about how environmentally terrific a communist dictatorship was for building it.
Where are all the "new agricultural and business opportunities" for the 1.5 million people that US ecology experts claimed would result? What about the increased earthquakes they were warned about and that have resulted from the 410-mile-long reservoir? Not to mention the water pollution and other unknown damage to the river's ecology. According to a joint study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the World Wildlife Fund and the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission in 2007, 30 percent of the Yangtze's major tributaries were already seriously polluted.
China has finally had to admit its $23 billion project has not gone as planned. Instead of alleviating flooding, it has hurt more in a time of drought - hydroelectric plants are useless, crops are dying and people struggle to have drinking water. Pollution in the form of terrific additives like lead and ammonium have spiked due to the "new agricultural and business opportunities" so China is forced to build more water treatment plants.
It was always a big, bold project and I like that. It can be the 8th Wonder of the modern world and it's big enough to easily be seen from space. The dam itself, at 1.4 miles long and 607 feet tall, is five times larger than Hoover Dam, holds up to 5 trillion gallons of water and might produce 18,000 megawatts of electricity if all 26 turbines are on — twenty times the power of Hoover Dam.
But at a time when people are concerned about climate change, the increased water has led to increased rainfall and temperature changes in an area 10X the size of what the optimistic ecological projections stated. We all recognize that drastically changing land into cities might have an impact but no one in China seemed to consider creating an ocean there would make a difference. Now the "lake effect" is causing cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, but not in the immediate reservoir where fewer people now live anyway, but rather between the Daba and Qinling mountains where the temperature has decreased by an average of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit - nearly three times the change we are concerned about by 2100 due to global warming.
You never want to be right when it comes to harm and the well-being of 1.5 million people (and it could be even more - China has drastically understated everything else about this project so it could be 10 million displaced people, they aren't counting heads) and a huge chunk of the ecology, but you at least want to be less wrong and 'it will be great because it is clean energy' blinders coupled with 'we should be more totalitarian when it comes to the environment' thinking are now being played out for the world to see.
It's quite rare for the communist Chinese to admit any kind of error, so that is to be applauded, and perhaps the world science community - actual geologists and not 'natural resources' professors who issue loving odes to "terraced ponds and wetlands along the borders of the giant reservoir, and establishing food production businesses that capitalize on the changing water levels" and "We're saying everyone has to think outside the box" thinking, can be included this time.
The meeting of the state council was presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao and they stated they expected to have improvements by 2020. 8 years is a long time.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- What Do EU Countries Give Up When They Opt-out Of GMO Crops? And For Whom?
- Nobel Prize Validates Chinese Medicine? Nope.
- Sex Change Hormonal Treatments Alter Brain Chemistry
- An Easy Problem
- Coincidence Or Conspiracy? Investigating If Believers Really See So Much Secret Design
- Houston Is A Lot More Tolerant Of Immigrants Than Copenhagen Is
- Thank You Guido
- "This is a bit of irony: Mother Jones, which can never be bothered with facts or truth and got sued..."
- "Great piece Steve. While the potential for suffering and death in Africa especially thanks to this..."
- "I look forward to more threats and libel from you in the very near future. It's your stock in trade..."
- "Dear Mr. Campbell: Again you spin and dissemble. It was quite clear from the many tweets between..."
- "One of us does not know what libel means (hint: It is you). Calling me a felon and a fraud is libel..."
- FDA-Approved Test for Meningitis is a Home Run
- Trends In Smoking – Chinese Men In Peril, American Women Get Better Cessation
- Counter-Point: Activists Operate By Outrage, Not Fear
- Whole Foods Recalls Organic Roquefort Cheeses After Listeria Found
- Suicide Tries Linked to Weight-Loss Surgery? Study Doesn’t Show
- Following Rules, Refreezing Thawed Meat is Safe
- Beetles provide clues about the genetic foundations of parenthood
- Teens value results of genetic tests to inform future life decisions
- Trees to power: McMaster engineers build better energy storage device
- High dose chemo & stem cell transplantation results in long-term survival for amyloid patients
- 'Blind analysis' could reduce bias in social sciences papers