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Acid Rain - a Contemporary World Problem

Essay by review  •  December 5, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,253 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,262 Views

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ACID RAIN - A CONTEMPORARY WORLD PROBLEM

Abstract

This paper explores how acid rain is produced, what its impact is on the environment, what has been done by government agencies to help the problem, how effective these measures have been, what individuals can do to help reduce this problem, what are the current technologies for reducing emissions and how these technologies can be used to reduce acid rain in the future. It demonstrates that current attempts to reduce emissions from power plants will not have a significant effect on acid rain reduction; and will support the idea that there is not a single solution to the problem of acid rain, but rather a combination of technologies and methods will have to be utilized to have a noticeable effect of the reduction of and repair of environmental destruction caused by acid rain. Table of Contents: Introduction How Acid Rain is Formed Effect of Acid Rain on the Environment How Large is This Problem? What Has Already Been Done to Reduce Emissions? Have These Measures Been Effective? What is the Future of the Acid Rain Issue? How Can an Individual Help? Current Trends in Alternative Power as a Solution to the Problem Summary Works Cited From the paper: "Our modern world has many conveniences. We enjoy hot water, lights, computers, cars, and many other conveniences, which are now an integral part of our society. Many of us cannot imagine life without them. We seldom think about the costs every time we turn on a light. We do not think about the where the electricity is produced and what the effects on the environment might be. We simply turn on the light. As with all good things, there is a cost. One cost of our modern conveniences is acid rain caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The effects of acid rain came into the forefront during the early seventies as its effects began to be noticed on a global level. The impact of the effects of acid rain is considered to be of great concern to some and of little concern to others. No matter which side you are on, we all must agree that energy consumption will continue to increase globally and we must be weary of the effects of energy production and always stay focused on future generations."

INTRODUCTION:

Acid rain is one of the most dangerous and widespread forms of pollution. Sometimes called "the unseen plague," acid rain can go undetected in an area for years. Technically, acid rain is rain that has a larger amount of acid in it than what is normal. The acidity of rain in parts of Europe and North America has dramatically increased over the past few decades. It is now common in many places for rain to be ten to seventy times more acid than unpolluted rain. Many living and non-living systems become harmed and damaged as a result of acid rain. This website gives an informational, in-depth look at acid rain--it's causes and effects; and solutions to the acid rain problem.

Acid rain is caused by smoke and gases that are given off by factories and cars that run on fossil fuels. When these fuels are burned to produce energy, the sulfur that is present in the fuel combines with oxygen and becomes sulfur dioxide; some of the nitrogen in the air becomes nitrogen oxide. These pollutants go into the atmosphere, and become acid.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are produced especially when coal is burnt for fuel. Burning coal produces electricity, and the more electricity that people use, the more coal is burnt. Of course, nowadays people probably couldn't live without electricity, so coal will continue to be burnt; but electricity and energy are constantly being overused. Think of it this way: every time you turn on a light switch or the television set without really needing to, you're indirectly contributing to the acid rain problem. Automobiles produce nitrogen oxides (which cause acid rain), so every time you don't carpool when you can, you are helping to cause acid rain. So now that we know what causes acid rain, here's a look at how acid rain can hurt you and the world around you.

Acid rain refers to all types of precipitation--rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog--that is acidic in nature. Acidic means that these forms of water have a pH lower than the 5.6 average of rainwater. Acid rain kills aquatic life, trees, crops and other vegetation, damages buildings and monuments, corrodes copper and lead piping, damages such man-made things as automobiles, reduces soil fertility and can cause toxic metals to leach into underground drinking water sources.

Rain is naturally acidic because carbon dioxide, found normally in the earth's atmosphere, reacts with water to form carbonic acid. While "pure" rain's acidity is pH 5.6-5.7, actual pH readings vary from place to place depending upon the type and amount of other gases present in the air, such as sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxides.

The term pH refers to the free hydrogen ions (electrically charged atoms) in water and is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. Seven is considered neutral and measurements below seven are acidic while those above it are basic or alkaline. Every point on the pH scale represents a tenfold increase over the previous number. Thus, pH 4 is 10 times more acidic than pH 5 and 100 times more so than pH 6. Similarly, pH 9 is 1O times more basic than pH 8 and 100 times more basic than pH 7.

The acid in acid rain comes from two kinds of air pollutants-- sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These are emitted primarily from utility and smelter "smokestacks" and automobile, truck and bus exhausts, but they also come from burning wood.

When these pollutants reach the atmosphere they combine with gaseous water in clouds and change to acids--sulphuric acid and nitric acid. Then, rain and snow wash these acids from the air.

The effects of acid rain in have been recorded in parts of the United States, the late Federal Republic of Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Yugoslavia and elsewhere. It is also becoming a significant problem in Japan and China and in southeast Asia. Rain with a pH of 4.5 and below has been reported in Chinese cities ("Japan and China"). Sulphur dioxide emissions were reported in 1979 to have nearly tripled in India since the early 1960s, making them only slightly less than the then-current emissions from the Federal Republic of Germany.

Acid rain affects lakes, streams, rivers, bays, ponds and other bodies of water by increasing their acidity until fish and other aquatic creatures can no longer live. Aquatic plants grow best between pH 7.0 and 9.2 (Bourodemos). As acidity increases (pH numbers become lower), submerged aquatic

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