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Dead trees in Balbina Reservoir, Brazil. (Pedro Ivo Simoes)

International Rivers works on three key areas where climate change, dams and rivers intersect:

Dams as climate polluters

Scientific studies indicate that dams and reservoirs are globally significant sources of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and, in particular, methane. The latest estimate published in a peer-review journal is that dams and reservoirs are responsible for almost a quarter of all human-caused methane emissions. This 104 million tonnes of dam methane equals 4-5% of all human-caused warming.

Stopping carbon trading scams

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the Kyoto Protocol’s main international carbon trading program. It is intended to lower developed countries’ costs of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of "carbon credits" from projects in developing countries. It is also supposed to promote “sustainable development.” Many observers now agree that the CDM is failing badly on both its goals. International Rivers seeks to prevent big hydro developers from benefiting from the CDM’s flaws, to fix the CDM's worst flaws, and to promote better mechanisms of promoting investments in decarbonization.

Adapting to a warming world

Some of the worst impacts of global warming on both people and ecosystems will be felt though its impacts on water. Some areas will become much drier, some wetter. More extreme floods will threaten the safety of dams, and unprecedented droughts will drastically reduce the hydropower and water supply services that dams are built to provide. Minimizing the impacts of climate change will require diversifying away from dependence on big dams for electricity generation and flood control. Water security in a warming world will require major improvements in water use efficiency and in techniques such as rainwater harvesting and improved groundwater management and use.


Bujagali Dam Seriously Flawed, Say African Bank Inspectors

The Great Carbon Offset Swindle: International Rivers Report Deconstructs the Scam

Critique of the Xiaoxi World Commission on Dams Compliance Report

Christian Science Monitor: The Big Chill on Carbon Offsets

Bad Deal for the Planet: Why Carbon Offsets Aren’t Working…and How to Create a Fair Global Climate Accord


Patrick McCully
patrick [at] internationalrivers [dot] org
+1 510 848 1155