Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lessons from acid rain on climate change

This story about the follow-on effect of acid rain is important for a few reasons. First and most important, it shows that our tampering with nature can have unexpected consequences. Second, it shows that, even after corrective measures, those consequences can be long-lasting.

Mother Jones recently reported:

In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to include the Acid Rain Program. The impact on the targeted pollutants, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power generation, was remarkable. Between 1995 and 2011, emissions of sulfur dioxide fell by 64 percent; nitrogen oxides by 67 percent.

Despite this environmental success story, acid rain has done its work, eating away at the rock in our creeks and riverbeds. Perhaps counterintuitively, acid rain has made our waters -- including the Mississippi River -- more alkaline than acidic. Said one researcher: "The impacts are large, larger than we ever thought 50 years ago they might be."

This is why global climate change is so scary.  Even when we can predict the immediate effects like drought, flooding, salination, we can't predict what will be the domino effects of man's messing with the climate, even with the best scientific models. Therefore prudence is even more necessary.  

By Christopher Joyce
September 13, 2013 | NPR

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