Acid rain is a result of air pollution. When any type of fuel is burnt, lots of different chemicals are produced. These can mix in the atmosphere and fall to earth with water droplets. 


Where is it coming from?

Container ship © John Parkinson CC BY-ND 2.0Air pollution was once seen as a local issue but it was in southern Scandinavia in the late 1950's that the problems of acid rain were first observed, and it was then that people began to realise that the origins of this pollution were far away in Britain and Northern Europe.  One early answer to industrial air pollution was to build very tall chimneys.  Unfortunately all this does is push the polluting gases up into the clouds allowing emissions to float away on the wind.  The wind carries the pollution many hundreds of miles away where it eventually falls as acid rain.  In this way Britain has contributed at least 16% of the acid rain that has fallen in Norway.  In fact over ninety percent of Norway's acid pollution comes from countries other than itself. 

The National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) website states that, since 1990, Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions have declined by 96% and between 1990 and 2016, they declined by 98%. The website also tells us that emissions from the use of coal to generate electricity have decreased by 99% since 1990, and emissions in 2018 were down 30% from the previous year due to coal consumption. Fuel oil is no longer used in significant quantities at power stations and emissions in 2018 were just 0.2% of the emission in 1990.

In 2011 France, Germany and UK altogether produced over a million tons of sulphur emissions (Environment Canada).  Compare this to the fact that in 1994 Germany and UK produced over a million tons of emissions each.  Governments have taken serious steps to reduce the amount of sulphur and nitrogen emissions, but they are still a problem.

Shipping also contributes to sulphur emissions and legislation to help tackle this has recently been passed in the EU. As of 1 January 2015 EU Member States have to ensure that ships in the Baltic, the North Sea and the English Channel are using fuels with a sulphur content of no more than 0.10%. Higher sulphur contents are still possible, but only if the appropriate exhaust cleaning systems are in place.






Read More: How acidic is it?

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