The Download: Droughts are cutting into California’s hydropower. Here’s what that means for clean energy.

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Droughts are cutting into California’s hydropower. Here’s what that means for clean energy.

The droughts that swept across the western US in 2021 sparked wildfires and damaged crops. But the historic lack of water also had an impact on one of California’s key sources of renewable energy: hydropower.

Hydropower is the world’s leading source of renewable energy, making up about 17% of electricity generation in 2020, but droughts are making it harder to rely on. As a low-carbon source of power, it’s essential in limiting emissions of carbon dioxide.However, droughts over the last two years have caused Californian reservoirs to dry up, leading to the closure of the state’s second-largest hydropower plant last year. This lost power can’t easily be replaced with renewable sources that fluctuate during the day like wind and solar, which likely means more electricity generation from other sources, and more emissions. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Biden’s administration might sanction Kaspersky
It’s weighing up the decision carefully, because punishing a cybersecurity giant is a risky business. (WSJ $)
+ Oligarchs are exploiting UK data privacy laws to sue holders of “undesirable info”. (WP $)
+ Troops reportedly suffering from radiation sickness have pulled out of Chernobyl. (The Guardian)
+ What is the risk of a nuclear accident in Ukraine? (TR)
+ Russia’s displaced tech professionals are in no rush to return home. (AP)

2 Facebook is struggling to curb child sexual abuse content 
Its policy of “erring on the side of adult” means abuse imagery may be going unreported. (NYT $)
+ A major Facebook bug led to a surge of misinformation on users’ News Feeds. (The Verge)
+ On top of everything else, Meta’s dealing with an AI brain drain. (CNBC)

3 Scientists have finally sequenced the entire human genome
It’s a project almost two decades in the making. (WSJ $)

4 Social media platforms could be deleting war crimes evidence from Ukraine
Crucial proof for future prosecution can also violate platform policies. (BBC)
+ Overseas volunteers are sifting through content to collect war crime data. (TR)

5 The pandemic has shattered teenagers’ mental health
Schools have a significant role to play in helping them to recover. (WP $)
+ How Americans can prepare for the coming wave of covid. (NYT $)
+ Countries with poor sick pay are at the highest risk of future sickness. (Wired $)
+ Even a mild covid infection puts you at higher risk of developing diabetes. (Nature)
+ It looks like new cases in the US are leveling off. (Axios)

6 We take thousands of smartphone photos—but few are any good
The trick is to forget why you took them in the first place. (New Yorker $)
+ Photography in the metaverse could be more colorful than you could ever imagine. (Fast Company $)
+ Be careful, oligarchs, your families’ yacht selfies can lead to sanctions. (Vice)

7 TikTok’s fixation on witch hunts is an ethical quagmire
Its chaotic algorithm makes subjects into main characters—and villains. (The Atlantic $)
+ A 22-year old TikToker’s mom fanbase is growing increasingly toxic. (Input Mag) 

8 In praise of boring tech
Enterprise tech may be a snoozefest, but it makes the world go round. (NYT $)

9 The tech bros still love their Patagonia vests
Some wearers probably don’t even realize how mercilessly they’re being mocked. (NPR)
 
10 How to teach a robot to hug like a human
Aww, go on then. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ A tasty-looking silicone raspberry is teaching robots to be gentler. (EPFL)
+ Robots also enjoy making pizza! (TechCrunch)

Quote of the day

“We will tell her everything as it was. She should know the truth.”

—Khrystyna Pavluchenko, a Ukrainian woman, tells CNN she intends to tell her newborn daughter Adelina about being forced to flee to Poland to escape the war, once she’s old enough to understand.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Hang this masterpiece in the Louvre.
+ These sweet little penguin robots are going for gold​​—in jump rope.
+ This Twitter bot decides if a take is good or bad, seems scientific enough.
+ Who’s up for going on a treasure hunt?
+ Yves Klein loved a bit of invisible art—an NFT pioneer?
+ Boston Dynamics’ Spot is prowling around Pompeii ruins in a bid to deter tomb raiders.
+ Okay, that’s enough internet for one day, I’m outta here.