Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Remember Acid Rain?

A facebox friend of mine, an old coworker, asked today "remember acid rain?" As an air quality researcher, I do, in fact, remember acid rain. It comes up fairly regularly in my work and in discussions with other people at the university. But the point he was trying to make was that acid rain was a big, big deal for a long time. I remember the news and the people talking at my grade school. But now, the news never (hardly ever) talks about it anymore. My friend then asked if there was any other thing which seems to be following the same pattern. I assume he meant climate change.

Acid rain occurrence in the developed world has been greatly reduced through regulation. I think a lot of that was because people are inherently afraid of acid. It sounds dangerous. Another part is that people didn't really have to do anything. Regulations were made and cars, gas and industrial processes changed, but most people didn't have their daily routine changed.

CO2, on the other hand, is not something that most people would think of as bad. It's plant food, right? Everyone makes it, therefore it can't be bad. And global warming, well, I mean, who wouldn't want things a bit warmer? And the solutions require major, major changes in the way the developed world runs. Instead of saying you have to improve the catalytic converter on your car, you need an electric car, or a hydrogen car, or no car at all. Instead of scrubbing the effluent from industrial processes, it's an end to industrial farming. On top of that, it's a very slow process. It's basically a recipe for people to avoid dealing with it:

So, while acid went away in the media, it was in large part because regulations have helped decrease it to a point where other stuff is more important / interesting. We can only hope that climate change goes away from the media for the same reasons.

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