Environmental impacts of energy production - Acid Deposition Flashcards


Acid Deposition…


Fossil fuels can damage the environment…

The extraction of fossil fuels, e.g. by mining can damage the environment.

Transportation can also cause environmental damage, e.g. through oil spills.

The use of fossil fuels has negative impacts on the environment as well, such as acid depostion and global warming.

Acid deposition:

The major causes of acid deposition are the burning of fossil fuels in power stations, the smelting of metals in older industrial plants and exhaust fumes from motor vehicles. Acid deposition consists of the dry deposition of pollutants released by these activities: sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. These chemicals mix with precipitation, mist and clouds to produce wet deposits of sulphuric acid, nitric acid and compounds of ammonia (acid rain).

Acid deposition causes damage to trees, particularly conifers. It produces a yellowing of the needles and strange branching patterns. It also leads to the leaching of toxic metals (aluminium) from soils, and their accumulation in rivers and lakes. This in turn kills fish and other aquatic life, reducing biodiversity. Acid deposition is blamed for damage to buildings, particularly those built of limestone. It can cause health problems in people, such as bronchitis and other respiratory complaints.

Various ways of reducing acid depostion exist:

  • the use of catalytic converters on cars to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide emitted in exhaust fumes
  • burning fossil fuels with a lower sulphur content
  • replacing coal-fired power stations with nuclear power stations


Scandinavia is one area of the world where forests and lakes have been severly damaged by acid rain. Scientists found that most of the pollution came from outside the region, mainly the UK. The UK has now recognised its responsibility and has made significant moves to reduce sulphur emissions.

By 1999 total acid deposition on Scandinavia had fallen by 30%, but the residual effects mean that it will take time to repair the environmental damage. Today, much of the pollution affecting this area comes from eastern Europe where countries have weak economies and cannot afford anti-pollution measures.

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