Back in the 1980s and for part of the 1990s, one could hardly open a newspaper or watch a television news program without reading or hearing about acid rain and its toxic effects on the environment. People across the United States-and particularly those in the Northeast-were concerned about the long-term consequences of this recently-discovered problem.
Now, several decades after the initial warnings reached America’s consciousness, one might wonder what happened to this issue. We rarely-if ever-read or hear about it. Has acid rain been “solved?” Is the threat no longer there? Or have other current issues like global warming overtaken acid rain in the public’s mind?
According to Nina Shen Rastogi, who recently wrote an article for Slate, “When Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act calling for major reductions in the types of emissions that lead to rain,” the issue of acid rain fell off the radar. That was in 1990.
Since then, “emissions have dropped significantly,” Rastogi wrote. However, the issue is not completely solved. While the environment has improved in many areas that were severely affected by acid rain, some areas-mainly in the Northeast-have yet to recover, according to Rastogi.
So while global climate change has received the bulk of the media attention the last decade and a half, there is still work to be done to make sure areas across the United States are recovering.
One thing the rain issue does teach us, however. That is how government and industry can work together to help address a serious environmental issue. Global climate change is a much bigger problem with much more at stake. Nevertheless, the acid rain issue should provide us with incentive and confidence that we can positively affect issues related to global climate change.