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Future dams under risk

This year’s COP25 kicked off with a stark warning from the UN Secretary General that the “point of no return is no longer over the horizon, it is in sight and hurtling towards us.” The global climate crisis is not a distant threat; climate change is already impacting us and it is primarily being felt through water.

Hydropower has long been regarded as a key part of the solution to climate change, but many existing and planned hydropower projects now face rising risks from the impacts of climate change. Zambia, for example, might soon have to switch off the Kariba hydropower plant for the first time ever as water levels continue to drop. And we found that almost a third of future dams will face increased drought risk (Figure 1). Meanwhile, the renewable revolution means that the world can now prioritize investment in sustainable alternatives, such as wind and solar, and still meet global climate and energy goals — avoiding the need for new hydropower dams on free-flowing rivers.


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