Drought brings a host of concerns for Western states, from worsening wildfires to water shortages to reduced snowpack. Now, scientists have identified yet another, less obvious reason to worry: spikes in carbon emissions from the energy sector.
Fresh water is integral to several major energy sources in the West. It drives the turbines that produce electricity in hydroelectric plants, and is used for cooling and other purposes in thermoelectric power plants.
During droughts, however, some of these water-dependent plants may be compromised. When that happens, backup power plants — often fueled by natural gas, petroleum or coal — may be dispatched to meet demand. And that can drive a temporary increase in carbon emissions as well as other forms of air pollution. READ MORE.