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Acid Rain is a serious problem with disastrous effects. Every day this problem increases. Many believe that this issue is too small to deal with, but if the acid rain problem is not met with head on, the effects on people, plants, animals, and the economy will only worsen. In the following paragraphs you will learn what acid rain is, the effects it has on human life, animals, the economy, the economic costs, and what is being done to help to stop this problem.
This topic is very important because acid rain effects everyone everywhere all over the world. I. What is acid rain? Acid rain is the combination of two chemicals released into the atmosphere. These chemicals are sulphur dioxide (SO 2) and nitrogen oxides (Nox). Natural sources such as volcanoes, sea spray, rotting vegetation and plankton are all contributors to acid rain, but burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil which are referred to as dry emissions are largely to blame for more than half of the emissions into the world. 2 Nationally, one hundred and twenty tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are emitted into the air each day. 4 A.
How is acid rain formed? When the sulfur dioxide reaches the atmosphere, it oxidizes to first form a sulfate ion. It then becomes sulfuric acid when it joins with hydrogen atoms in the air and falls back down to earth, usually in the form of rain, snow, or fog. 1 Oxidation occurs the most in clouds and heavily polluted air where other compounds such as ammonia and ozone help to catalyze the reaction, converting more sulphur dioxide to sulphuric acid. The following are the stoichiometric equations for the formation of sulphuric acid: S (in coal) + O 2?
SO 22 SO 2 + O 2? 2 SO 3 SO 3 + H 2 O? H 2 SO 4 Nitric oxide and nitric dioxide are also components of acid rain. Its sources are mainly from power stations and exhaust fumes. Like sulphur dioxide, these nitrogen dioxides also rise into the air and are oxidized in the clouds to form nitric acid. Through this diagram you can better understand how acid rain is formed and emitted into the earth: II. Effects of acid rain Acid rain causes problems in almost every aspect of the environment.
Acid rain can have a devastating effect on aquatic life, crops, forests, buildings, and also human life. A. The human environment Acid rain has a multiplicity of effects in the human environment. The corrosion of limestone buildings in towns and cities is one such effect. The acid also eats through the pipes that channel water to the lakes. Far more insidious are the increasing incidents of lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma attributed to breathing in the tiny particles of sulphur and other pollutants. 2 Many people drink water everyday that is laced with these harmful chemicals without even knowing it.
B. The natural environment Much of the early concerns over the effects of acid rain are on the trees. The concern is centered on the direct contact of the acid rain to the leaves of the trees. It was estimated that more then sixty five percent of trees are effected by acid rain. 1 The rain scars the leaves, withers ferns and lichens, accelerates the death of coniferous needles, sterilizes seeds, and weakens the forest to a state that is vulnerable to disease infestation. 3 The rate of forest growth in New Hampshire has declined eighteen percent between 1956 and 1965. 3 Forests aren? t alone in the devastation. It has also been found that twenty thousand lakes have been acidified through the changes in the groundwater. 1 The soil is receiving what seems to be an overdose of fertilizer or a large drenching of vinegar.
Unfortunately the damage to the soil may not be reversible or repairable. On some croplands, tomatoes only grow to half of their full weight as well as other crop deformities. These problems not only effect the environment, but they also effect the economy. III. Effects of acid rain on the economy Because of acid rain, many fish have died. This reduces the ability of fish being caught and sold.
People who rely on fishing for their income may find themselves without a job. Owners of farms may be unable to produce quality crops to be sold. With the continued deterioration of buildings, the economy will have to spend more money to repair such problems. A.
Economic costs of acid rain It currently costs the American automobile industry sixty one million dollars each year to use acid-resistant paint on new vehicles. In turn, the cost of the vehicle will increase to compensate for the cost of the resistant paint. This inflation in automobile cost can prove to be a problem for many that rely on a car but can not afford the influx. Acid rain is also responsible for the loss of two billion to four billion dollars worth of wheat, corn, soybeans, and peanuts. This is devastating for the income of the farmers as well as the people who purchase these goods. Without these goods being readily available, the prices will increase and the products could become hard to get.
The National Academy of Science estimates damage from acid rain to be at least five billion dollars a year in the United States alone. 4 IV. Attempts by the economy to control the acid rain problem A. The Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990 There have been many propositions and attempts to reduce the production of acid rain. In order to make this attempt; the emission of sulfur dioxide must be reduced. One way of doing this was by passing the Clean Air Act. The 1990 Clean Air Acts sulfur dioxide reduction program will complement health-based sulfur dioxide pollution limits already in place to protect the public and the environment from both nearby and distant sources of sulfur dioxide.
The law sets up a market-based system designed to lower sulfur dioxide pollution levels. Beginning in the year 2000, annual releases of sulfur dioxide will be about forty percent lower than the 1980 levels. 3 Reducing sulfur dioxide releases should cause a major reduction in acid rain. The reduction is accomplished in two phases. Phase I of the program went into effect January 1, 1995. 4 Big coal-burning boilers in one hundred and ten power plants in twenty-one Midwest, Appalachian, Southeastern and Northeastern states will have to reduce releases of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide omissions. 4 As a result of Phase I, acid rain concentrations have lowered by twenty five percent. 4 Today, the average cost annually experienced in Phase I is about two hundred dollars per ton. 7 In 2000, Phase II of the acid rain program goes into effect, further reducing the sulfur dioxide releases from the big coal-burning power plants and covering other smaller polluters. 3 Affected sources are required to install systems that monitor emissions in order to track progress. The average annual cost for this phase is about one hundred and eighty five to two hundred and twenty dollars per ton. 7 To cut down on nitrogen oxide pollution, EPA will require power plants to reduce their nitrogen oxide releases, and will require reductions in nitrogen oxide releases from new cars. Reducing nitrogen oxide releases will reduce both acid rain and smog formation.
Companies that release less than the amount of regulated emissions can sell pollution credits to other companies. 4 Each source must have sufficient credits to cover its annual emissions. Companies that fail to meet the federal requirements are subject to a two thousand dollar per ton excess emission fee. 4 B. The Air Quality Accord This agreement was signed by the United States and Canada to guarantee cleaner air and a healthier environment for both Canadians and Americans. 5 On August 5, 1980, the United States and Canada agreed to Memorandum of Intent concerning transboundary air pollution. The Memorandum of Intent stated that sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions would be lowered by using previous laws that were established through the Clean Air Act. Scientists were appointed on both sides to regulate the progress. This agreement only intensified the debate instead of solving the problem.
The Canadians felt that the United States were not progressing and following the agreed laws so they denounced the existing agreement. 5 After many years of conflict the United States and Canada signed yet another agreement in 1986. 5 C. The Joint Report of the Special Envoys on Acid Rain In this report the United States publicly stated that acid rain was a serious environmental problem and agreed to implement a five year, five hundred billion dollar technology demonstration program. 5 In the end, it was found that the US was not going to take serious action to control the acid rain problem. In 1990 when President George Bush was elected he signed the Clean Air Act. This is when Canada and the United States agreed to once again sign the Air Quality Accord.
From then on the accord deemed success. Even though this accord deemed success the Canadians still believe that the United States is the major cause of their acid rain problems. 5 Canada also feels they have done more to control the effects of the acid rain pollution in North America. 5 D. What is Europe Doing? Europe has formed the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE). 6 The European nations have signed two protocols on sulfur aimed at their acid rain problems. 1. The 1985 Helsinki Protocol on the Reduction of Sulfur This protocol calls for a significant drop in transboundary emissions by all parties that participate. 6 Twenty-one ECE countries, including Canada have accepted this protocol. By 1980 they have dropped emissions by fifty percent. 62.
The 1994 Old Protocol on Further Reduction of Sulfur Eighteen countries including Canada have ramified this protocol. 6 The goal of this protocol is to reduce the area where acid rain exceeds the critical loads according to a formula that minimizes the total cost of reduction. 6 The UN-ECE is also trying to negotiate another protocol to address acid rain as well as smog and other effects. V. How to prevent and educate about acid rainA. Acid Rain 2000 The primary aim of Acid Rain 2000 is to educate young people about the changing nature of acid rain and the response of environmental systems to these changes. 2 The participants of this program will be informed of the causes of acid rain and they will also recognize that the effect of acid disposition is variable and dependent on the capacity of a particular system to absorb the pollution. 2 The project targets children of all ages because the awareness of acid rain is not restricted to any age level.
At the primary school level the children will take part in simple monitoring programs to record acid rain levels. At the secondary level, children will be able to analyze the results. 2 Schools from all around the world participate in this program because the acid rain problem is international. Without joining a program there are many things that can be done to help reduce formation of acid rain. They are: Conserve electricity. 4 Use automobiles less. 4 Collect water / snow samples and test them for pH. 4 Contact local environmental groups about their involvement in the acid rain issue. 4 Study historical sites, buildings or monuments in your area and determine how they are being affected by acid rain. 4 VI. Conclusion Acid rain can be a devastating problem to all countries, but with the implementation of the Clean Air Act, the Accord, and many other reforms that call for the reduction of sulfur and nitrogen oxide releases, the acid rain problem can be regulated. With help from everyone being conscious about what they are doing day to day to contribute to the problem, the issue can turn to be a problem of the past.
Since the passage of the Clean Air Act, acid rain levels have fallen dramatically across large portions of North America. 8 But the decline doesn? t mean that the problem is gone. There is still much that everyone can do to help the problem and to help lower the annual cost to the economy. If you are interested in learning more about the acid rain problem you may want to contact the Acid Rain Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina, The Department of Environmental Protection in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or Pennsylvanians for Acid Rain Control in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
These and thousands of other organizations strive to educate the community about the acid rain problem and would be more than happy to send you information about what you can do to help. Bibliography Leslie R. Alm, Scientists and the Acid Rain policy in Canada and the US. Science, Technology, and Human Values, 1997, 349 Acid Rain: Bad News About The Good News Business Week, 25 October 1999, 95 Anne E.
Smith, Jeremy Platt, A. Denny Eller man, The cost of reducing SO 2: It? s (higher than you think) Public Utilities Fortnightly, 15 May 1998, 22 Acid Rain-A Definition web being done? What is Europe and the UN-ECE doing? web Rain: The Facts web od Environmental Protection, Acid Rain In Pennsylvania web Acid Rain Chuck III?
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Research essay sample on Clean Air Act Effects Of Acid Rain