Acid Rain is classified as rain with a pH lower than 5. 7. The pH of normal rainfall is around 5. 6; the acidity in this is natural and due to the CO2 and carbonic acid that is present in the atmosphere. Acid rain contains higher amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids compared to normal rainfall. There are many factors of pollution that lead to acid rain. There are natural pollutants in acid rain including emissions from volcanic and decaying vegetation, but the majority of the pollutants are man-made.
Emissions from sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NO) are the main causes of acid rain; both of these are a result of electric power generation and fossil fuel combustion. Burning coal, driving vehicles, CFCs, HAPs, carbon monoxide and many more chemicals cause acid rain when released into the air. Acid rain is formed when these chemicals released into the atmosphere react with water, oxygen and other chemicals to form acidic compounds, resulting in a solution of sulfuric and nitric acid.
The damage caused by acid rain is immeasurable on our society and planet. Acid rain affects aquatic life, land life and even affects the quality of non-living objects. Aquatic life is affected to the greatest extent, because aquatic life does not have an escape from the acidic rain. Once a body of water reaches a specific pH most of the organisms will no longer be able to survive and the entire ecosystem will be corrupted. The acidity of a body of water depends on the size, location and buffer capacity.
A land environment is also affected significantly by acid rain. Trees and other vegetation are damaged and weakened by acid rain; a loss of essential nutrients is the main reason for the damage. High altitude and mountain regions are exposed to higher amounts of acid than any other environment because acidic clouds and fog (that is more acidic than the actual acid rainfall) normally surround them. Weakened, aged and very young organisms and vegetation are more susceptible to damage from acid rain than their healthy counterparts for obvious reasons.
Acid rain does not occur to the same extent all over the world. The occurrence of acid rain is directly related to the amount of pollutants being released in many cases. Many regions of the U. S, the southeast region of Canada, Central Europe, parts of Asia and Scandinavia are main areas affected by acid rain. The main reason being that in many of these places there is a high number of factories, power plants and automobiles. But in some cases, such as Scandinavia the reason is that acid rain is mobile and can travel far distances without being released.
Acid rain occurs when polluted gasses are trapped in clouds, and these clouds may drift for hundreds or thousands of miles before releasing the precipitation. In most cases the regions with the highest amount of pollution suffer the highest amount of acid rain, but depending on the jet streams and weather fronts, the clouds with the acid rain in them can travel long distances to various locations. The technology to prevent and diminish acid rain does exist, but in many cases it is very expensive and can sometimes lower the efficiency of a factory or plant.
A new technology in the U. S is Flue gas desulfurization (FGD), this is used in many coal-burning power plants and it removes sulfur-containing gases from stack gases. A process similar to this FGD is used in automobiles as well and is called a catalytic converter. A catalytic converter has been required in the U. S for over 20 years and these devices reduced NOx emissions from cars. With both these technologies it is important to maintain them and keep them working properly. With modern day technology there are many other sources of energy besides fossil fuels.
Hydropower, nuclear power, wind energy, solar energy and geothermal energy are some examples of these with nuclear and hydropower being used the most in the U. S. These other forms are efficient but have not been made economically affordable alternatives to fossil fuels. Modern technology has invented alternate energy sources for vehicles as well, including natural gas, batteries and fuel cells. All sources of energy have environmental benefits as well as environmental costs. Many of these energies are more efficient but more expensive to produce, which decides who is able to afford them.
But I am sure that as time goes on these alternative sources of energy are becoming more and more cost effective. Acid rain majorly affects any environment and it is sometimes impossible to restore the environment back to the condition it was before the introduction of acid rain. Limestone is one way to shorten the healing process for acidic lakes, but while used extensively in Norway and Sweden it is a very expensive and tedious process and only considered a short-term remedy, but does allow the environment to return to health much quicker.
There is no cure-all for the damages caused by acid rain. Time and a restoration of a healthy environment with a normal pH level is the only solution known to modern day technology at this time. Because of the harmful affects of acid rain, the distance it can travel and how pricey it is to try and reverse, it has become the reason for more than a few lawsuits. The basis for many of these lawsuits is that a factory in location A is causing a major (harmful) effect on the environment in location B.
Acid rain occurs in clouds and these clouds may travel hundreds of miles; this is what the lawsuits are based on. The result of these lawsuits is that the factories at fault are being forced to become more effective and put more money into lowering the amount of pollutants. As more and more lawsuits are winning in favor of improving the environment it is becoming clear that the nation and the world is realizing what a harmful effect acid rain has. In 2007 renewable energy sources supplied about 7% of the world’s energy consumption.
A quote by a reporter in “Zogby International” states. “The House of Representatives recently passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which would require electric power companies to generate 20 percent of their power from clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, by the year 2020. Also included is a global warming plan which would reduce greenhouse gases from sources like power plants and factories by 17 percent, and an energy efficiency plan which includes new appliance standards and building codes to conserve energy. As this quote states, by the year 2020, 20% of the power generated by electric power companies would have to come from clean, renewable energy sources. This policy will increase the use of renewable energy sources by almost 13%, which is plausible, but large amounts of resources; economic and natural will be needed in order to make this a reality. If this policy becomes a reality there is going to be a shift in jobs and government to the natural resource sector.
If the government can do their job well they should be attempting to change societies image of energy sources from non-renewable energy sources to renewable energy sources. As acid rain becomes more and more of a problem, power companies are starting to offer rewards for more efficient technology. For example, National Grid is now offering a GreenUp renewable energy program. To enroll in this program you must purchase a product from one of the renewable energy companies, but this in turn gives you all or a part of your electricity generated from renewable sources.
This program supports the development and generation of renewable energy, lets you take responsibility for your environment and helps offset the environmental impact of the production of electricity from non-renewable resources. I think that these programs will help a lot. These programs are raising consumer awareness and helping consumers afford and have access to using renewable energy sources in their day-to-day life. The government has responded to the issue of acid rain in many ways. The Environmental Protection Agency has had a large role in the enforcement of laws.
The Clean Air Act defines the EPA’s responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation’s air quality. The government plays a role in addressing the problem of acid rain, but this role wasn’t used as much as it should have been until recently. I think that the government should have a large role in dealing with the problem of acid rain. The government is organized enough to be able to make a huge difference in the amount of acid rain in modern day. The problem of preventing acid rain would be best dealt with at a global level though, in my opinion.
I think this because acid rain is a global problem and it is just going to keep getting worse. Everyone should pay for cleanup and prevention efforts for acid rain. Factories and other plants would have contributed greatly to the effects of acid rain should have to pay a much more substantial amount than an individual. But it is a worldwide problem so if everyone chips in it would be solved much easier. Individuals can do a lot to help with the problem of acid rain, even just by turning off lights and buying efficient cars, every little bit helps.
Reference List: Acid Rain Paper
“Acid Rain | US EPA.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/index.html
“National Grid – Grants and Incentives.” Welcome to National Grid. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. .
“What is Acid Rain and What Causes It?” Almanac of Policy Issues. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. .
“Zogby International.” Zogby International – Polling, Market Research, First Globals. Web. 13 Nov. 2009.