(9) Environmentalism


Acid Rain - Is it really a big deal?


Acid Rain

Scottish chemist Robert Angus Smith coined the term acid rain in the mid-1800s after speculating that emissions from local coal-burning factories were making rainfall in Manchester unusually acidic.

The main pollutants producing acid rain are sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are released into the atmosphere as by-products of industrial processes and transportation, especially from burning fossil fuels.

Smokestacks can contribute to acid rain by spewing pollutants above the inversion layer, which reduces local pollution but can cause pollution to travel as much as 1,000 kilometers on higher winds.

Acid rain creates many problems, including acidification of lakes; harming aquatic life; damaging terrestrial plants and forests; harming human health; and damaging buildings and monuments.

Controlling acid rain requires transboundary cooperation. Acid deposition is particularly bad in Asia, partly because China relies heavily on burning coal for energy; if trends continue, by 2025 China will produce more sulfur dioxide than the United States, Canada, and Japan combined.

Efforts to promote transboundary cooperation on acid rain and air pollution include the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP); and the Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution on the Reduction of Sulphur Emissions or their Transboundary Fluxes by at least 30 percent (Sulphur Emissions Reduction Protocol).


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