Reasons Why We Should Care About Acid Rain
Humans have made a lasting impact on the world, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the environmental disasters we face. One of the most serious problems facing us today is acid rain – a result of our industrial age. Acid rain is no longer just a scientific theory – it has been proven to exist and its effects are being felt worldwide.
Acid Rain Is the Result of Human Activities
Acid rain is a natural occurrence when carbon dioxide from the atmosphere combines with water in the atmosphere to form carbonic acid.
This happens naturally, but increased levels of industrially produced gases like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone are now causing acid rain to happen much quicker than it used to.
This is caused by our increased use of coal in power plants as well as cars that create increased amounts of pollution when they run.
The acidity of rain is directly proportional to the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This means that as the concentration increases, the acidity of rain increases.
A similar phenomenon is observed when we use fossil fuels at home or in our vehicles. This produces carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere and reacts with water vapour forming carbonic acid.
This is then deposited on Planet Earth as rain, snow, or fog. The resulting acidic water droplets are known as acid rain.
Besides affecting our health directly, acid rain also affects our environment negatively by damaging plants, destroying forests; making soil barren; causing pollution in lakes, rivers and oceans; and damaging buildings.
The Root Cause of Acid Rain Is Pollution
Pollution causes acid rain, particularly sulphur and nitrogen emissions from coal burning and nitric acid from industrial processes.
When this type of pollution reaches the upper atmosphere of Planet Earth, these contaminants are broken down to form acidic compounds.
The rainfall that falls on the surface then contains high amounts of acidic compounds, hence the name acid rain.
Acidic compounds that are found in the air come from many sources, such as cars and other vehicles, factories, and power plants.
The acidity of this rain varies depending on where it falls.
Areas close to cities, towns and factories tend to have more acidic rain than those further away from human activity, as more pollutants are being produced near these areas.
However, even areas far away from industrial activity can still have acidic rain due to naturally occurring components in the atmosphere being exposed to the pollution emitted by humans.
It can cause damage to trees and crops, which can lead to a decline in biodiversity (the variety of plants and animals found in an area).
Acid rain also damages buildings, statues, monuments, and other structures made of stone or metals like copper or zinc.
It can also cause the corrosion of metal structures such as bridges and dams.
Acid Rain Can Make Some Soils More Acidic
The pH of acidic soil depends on the rainfall rate, which determines the amount of time that carbonic or sulfuric acid has had to react with the soil.
Certain rocks, particularly limestone and chalk have very high erosion rates and consequently acidify the soil, but only in areas where there’s no limestone or chalk present.
The problem is not just that these rocks are eroding rapidly, but that they contain minerals like calcium carbonate which are soluble in water.
When rainwater percolates through the soil it picks up these minerals and carries them away with it.
Therefore, you find limestone and chalk in such large quantities on the surface of hillsides, where they’ve been carried by water erosion.
In areas where there is no limestone or chalk present, this process stops because there’s nothing to dissolve, so the soil tends to be alkaline.
However, if you add some limestone or chalk to a previously alkaline area then acidification will occur as the newly added mineral begins to dissolve in the rainwater.
This can affect many different types of plants and animals within an ecosystem.
Why Acid Rain Is Bad News for Plants
There are many kinds of acid rain, but they all come from the same place: air pollution.
When fossil fuels like coal and oil are burned, they release sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere.
These gases then react with water vapour in the air to form sulfuric and nitric acids. This is what causes acid rain.
When plants are exposed to acid rain, it can damage the leaves in a way that interferes with their ability to perform photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy to grow and reproduce. Acid rain can also damage leaves by leaching nutrients out of them or by changing their colour.
Plants have evolved various ways of dealing with acid rain over time, but sometimes they can’t adapt fast enough to keep up with changes in the environment.
This is often brought about by human activity such as burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity production
Those plants that are exposed to high levels of sulphur and nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel combustion may have difficulty accessing enough nutrients required for healthy growth.
Researchers have found that when plants are exposed to higher levels of air pollution, they produce less protein and fewer fruits and seeds.
This is because plants cannot absorb enough nitrogen from the soil to support their growth.
Scientists have long known that nitrogen is necessary for plant growth and development, which includes flowering and fruiting (also known as pollination). But until now there was little evidence that this nutrient was limiting plant reproduction at high pollution levels.
Acid Rain and Pollution Are Problems for Our Forests
The impacts of acid rain may be largely invisible and hard to measure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real or devastating.
In fact, acid rain poses a serious threat to our forests — killing trees and preventing new ones from growing.
In the fight against industrial pollutants, we are often taught to focus on the damage they can cause to our cities. While this can be important, we must not forget rural areas.
The forests that surround us are also at risk from destructive chemicals, whether from power plants or factories.
Acid rain can kill trees, which are important for keeping oxygen in the air and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
This type of rain is caused by sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other chemicals that react with water in the atmosphere to form acids such as sulfuric acid or nitric acid.
Sulphur dioxide is a gas that comes mainly from burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels; it reacts with water vapour to form sulfuric acid.
Nitrogen oxide is another gas that comes from fossil fuel combustion; it reacts with water vapour to form nitric acid.
The main source of these gases is large industrial plants including power plants, which burn fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum products to produce energy or make goods.
This creates pollutants that travel through the air until they reach another area where there’s enough moisture in the atmosphere for them to react with water molecules to form acids.
As a result of this reaction, acid rain falls from the sky onto the trees and forests below.
Acidic Rain Changes the Composition of Lakes, Streams and Oceans
When it rains, it flows into streams and lakes where it can change the chemistry and make the water less desirable for fish.
Fish in acidic waters are often different colours than they normally would be, and these species suffer behavioural changes.
Not all fish have acidity issues, but studies have shown that increased acidity causes abnormalities in development and reproduction for many fish species.
In the ocean, the pH of water varies from place to place and season to season.
The global average surface ocean pH has decreased from 8.2 to 8.1 since pre-industrial times because of the absorption of anthropogenic CO2 into the world’s oceans.
The most vulnerable group of fish are those that live in tropical waters around coral reefs, where pH levels may reach 7.9 or lower by 2050 if we continue our current emissions trajectory.
The ocean is becoming more acidic, and the change is happening faster than we expected. Ocean acidification affects all life in the oceans, from plankton to fish.
Like humans, fish are prone to respiratory problems when their body tissues become too acidic, so they need healthy gills to breathe properly.
Acidic waters also make it harder for fish scales and shells to form correctly, which can be fatal if the damage is severe enough.
Acid Rain Is Eroding National Monuments and Buildings
Acid rain has long been known as one of the largest environmental issues for countries around the world. It is caused by sulphur and nitrogen gases being released into the air.
When this happens, it mixes with water droplets in the atmosphere to create acids and these acids bring damage to our homes, buildings, monuments and more.
Acidic rainfall damages building exteriors, causes metal corrosion, and threatens valuable national monuments.
In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has released a risk assessment report that details how acidic rain is damaging building exteriors and potentially threatening cultural heritage sites.
The report was conducted by DEFRA with the help of Historic England, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.
It is part of a wider effort to assess the impact of climate change on the British landscape and its cultural heritage.
Acidic rain occurs when air pollution emitted from factories and vehicles combines with moisture in clouds to create corrosive compounds that are transported by wind currents over long distances before falling to Planet Earth as acid rain or snow.
The report found that this type of precipitation can corrode metals such as copper, lead, zinc and steel at an accelerated rate compared with normal rainwater.
As a result, metal objects such as statues, railings or roofing materials can be left vulnerable to damage if they are exposed to acidic rainfall over prolonged periods.
The effects of acid rain on buildings vary by material and exposure conditions.
For instance, limestone is more susceptible to damage than sandstone due to its porosity. Also, the amount of exposure to rain may affect how much damage occurs.
Acid Rain Is Damaging Your Health
Acid rain isn’t just a forest problem – it’s also a health concern. It’s an unfortunate reality that acid rain can affect the health of people who live in areas highly affected by it.
One of the biggest problems is that contaminants that are carried in the rainfall can make their way into drinking water and cause serious health issues.
Acid rain can cause serious health issues in humans who are exposed to it over time.
Exposure to acid rain can cause eye irritation for people who live near polluted areas or who work outside for long periods.
People with respiratory ailments such as asthma or emphysema may experience worsening symptoms when they are exposed to acidic air pollution such as acid rain.
The lungs can become inflamed and breathing becomes more difficult. Sudden exposure to high levels of pollutants in acidic air can also lead to chest pain and coughing fits due to irritation in the respiratory tract.
Another problem is that it’s not just water you’re getting when you see raindrops. In addition to regular water, acid rain contains various heavy metals.
These include copper and lead, as well as chlorine compounds, which are toxic to humans and other living organisms.
Because these metals are heavier than normal water molecules, they sink to the bottom of lakes and streams instead of staying suspended in the air as normal rain does.
Meaning they can easily contaminate drinking water supplies. The same goes for any surface water sources like rivers or streams.
These may also be affected by acid rain if they pass through metal-rich soils before reaching your tap.
We need to work together as a society to reduce acid rain and its effects on Planet Earth.
Acid rain is a serious problem, and it’s getting worse. It causes billions in damage every year to buildings, statues, monuments, and other structures, and to lakes, ponds and streams.
Acid rain is caused by sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and ammonia that are released into the atmosphere by power plants.
These chemicals mix with water vapour to form sulfuric acid, nitric acid and ammonium hydroxide which then precipitate out of the atmosphere as acidic rain or snow.
Many people think that acid rain is only a problem in industrialised countries, but they’re wrong! Acid deposition occurs all over the world.
It just varies in severity based on geography and climate conditions like temperature and humidity.
Acidic precipitation damages ecosystems by killing aquatic organisms like fish eggs, larvae, and adult fish. It causes deformities in young plants including leaf spot disease.
This leads to premature leaf drop or defoliation; weakening plant tissue such that it makes them more susceptible to pests.
It also adds the erosion of natural rock formations like limestone cliffs, and corroding metals like steel bridges.
In addition to the negative environmental impacts, acid rain also has negative consequences for human health. Contributing to respiratory problems like asthma attacks.
Acid rain is associated with increased levels of smog, which can lead to lung disease in people who are exposed to it over long periods.
Acid rain is an environmental problem caused by man-made chemicals being emitted into our atmosphere. It can be dangerous for plants, animals, and people.
Combined with other environmental issues, acid rain has the potential to be one of the most destructive factors on Planet Earth.
For us to best address this problem and its effects, we need to collectively work with each other towards a common goal of bringing about positive change.
By working together as a society, we can help reduce the amount of pollution and decrease the dangers posed by acid rain.
Most of the time the pollution is caused on a small scale, and it builds up into great amounts.
By working together, we can build a sustainable future for Planet Earth.