Category Acid Deposition and Energy Use

ACID DEPOSITION, ITS EFFECTS, AND CRITICAL LOADS

Acid deposition is the deposition of air pollutants to ecosystems leading to acidification and eutrophica­tion, which cause negative effects in these ecosystems. The components contributing to acid deposition are sulfur compounds (SO2 and SO4), oxidized nitrogen compounds (NO, NO2, HNO2, HNO3, and NO3), and reduced nitrogen compounds (NH3 and NH4). Some rain is naturally acidic because of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in air that dissolves with rain water and forms a weak acid. This kind of acid is actually beneficial because it helps dissolve minerals in the soil that both plants and animals need. Ammonia acts as a base in the atmosphere, neutralizing nitric and sulfuric acid, but in soil ammonia it can be converted by microorganisms to nitric acid, producing addi­tional acid in the process.

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INTRODUCTION

The alarm regarding the increasing acidification of precipitation in Europe and eastern North America was first sounded in the 1960s. Since then, most attention has focused on acid rain’s effects, estab­lished and suspected, on lakes and streams, with their populations of aquatic life, and on forests, although the list of concerns is far broader: It includes contamination of groundwater, corrosion of man­made structures, and, recently, deterioration of coastal waters.

The processes that convert the gases into acid and wash them from the atmosphere began operating long before humans started to burn large quantities of fossil fuels. Sulfur and nitrogen compounds are also released by natural processes such as volcanism and the activity of soil bacteria...

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Acid Deposition and Energy Use

Acid Deposition and Energy Use

The history of human culture can be viewed as the progressive development of new energy sources and their associated conversion technologies. Advances in our understanding of energy have produced unparalleled transformations of society, as exempli­fied by James Watt’s steam engine and the discovery of oil. These transformations increased the ability of humans to exploit both additional energy and other resources, and hence to increase the comfort, long­evity, and affluence of humans, as well as their numbers. Energy is related to human development in three important ways: as a motor of economic growth, as a principal source of environmental stress, and as a prerequisite for meeting basic human needs...

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