When sulfur and nitrogen oxides are emitted into the atmosphere they quickly oxidize and convert to gaseous acids, then return to the earth as acidic compounds in what is known as acid rain. On any ecosystem the precipitation falls one can see detrimental effects. When falling into a body of water it increases the pH decreasing fish population and biodiversity. Similarly on forest floor it increases the acidity of the soil weakening trees and other plants. Sulfur and Nitrogen oxides are emitted into the environment from both natural and manmade sources. The largest manmade contributor of these emissions is from fossil fuel combustion occurring in coal power generating plants used in many countries around the world largely U.S.A, Russia, India, and China. In the United States the acid rain debate occurred in the 1980’s to 2000’s between environmental organizations, coal and utility sectors whether these power plants should have more rigorous pollution restrictions.^1 It was a very public debate addressed by many; scientists and politicians included. All advocates used media outlets to defend and share their arguments. The rise in public knowledge on the controversy was enough to pressure the government and cause positive change.
It was no debate that acid rain was damaging the environment, but some would have debated that there was not enough scientific backing emissions reductions would reduce the occurrence of acid rain. Whereas environmentalists argued that burning of fossil fuels was, and still is, the primary cause and any way to reduce omissions should be taken regardless of higher costs to power plants. Even with enough evidentiary support to pin point the increase of acid deposition on the burning of coal it was a difficult decision for the American government to limit pollutions. Citizens were worried that it would diminish jobs in the mining industry. Cleaning up the process would be expensive and not favored by consumers. Eventually measures were taken to reduce these emissions by limiting the amount of emissions allowed in the country. Before this was done however, tension was created between the U.S.A and Canada and of course great environmental damage.
This paper will present data gathered from websites, reports, and newspapers archives to highlight some points of the acid rain debate of the 1980’s to present day. It will start the discovery of acid rain then to its debut in the media. Leading into the start of the debate and exploring the different views on the controversy and how it affected the relationship between the United States and Canada. It will conclude with the actions taken to reduce emissions.
Acid rain was first discovered in the 1800’s. Its connection to electric power generation was not made until 1852 by a Scottish chemist, Robert Angus Smith. He noticed that forests located downwind of industrial factories were deteriorating. The debate whether this was the real cause of acid rain remained among...