Acid rain pollution halved in 15 years

A A A

Acid rain, one of the greatest pollution scourges of the last decade, is being rapidly reduced across Britain and Europe, a new official report reveals. It concludes that the acidity of rainfall in Britain has been cut in half over the past 15 years and that acidified lakes in Scandinavia are beginning to recover in what promises to be one of the most remarkable environmental success stories on record.

Acid rain, one of the greatest pollution scourges of the last decade, is being rapidly reduced across Britain and Europe, a new official report reveals. It concludes that the acidity of rainfall in Britain has been cut in half over the past 15 years and that acidified lakes in Scandinavia are beginning to recover in what promises to be one of the most remarkable environmental success stories on record.

The report, by the National Expert Group on Transboundary Air Pollution, also shows that Britain – once both one of Europe's worst polluters and the most reluctant to clean up – has been in the lead in cutting its emissions.

Acid rain comes mainly from sulphur and nitrogen released by the burning of fossil fuels in power stations, industrial boilers and vehicle engines. The pollutants combine with water vapour, sunlight and oxygen to produce a dilute soup of sulphuric and nitric acid which then falls as rain, often hundreds of miles from where the pollutants were originally emitted.

Nearly a quarter of Sweden's 90,000 lakes have been affected, 4,000 of them so badly that no fish could survive. Thousands more lakes in the eastern USA were "killed''. Researchers in Germany concluded that acid rain was to blame for an alarming sickness of the country's forests, giving rise to its Green party.

Britain came in for particular censure. Its pollution blew over the North Sea to become one of the main causes of the damage in Scandinavia. Yet for years successive governments and the electricity generating industry refused to accept that the problem existed. In the early Eighties Margaret Thatcher's government repeatedly refused to join an international agreement to cut emissions by 30 per cent, yet the report – by a group of British, Dutch and Scandinavian scientists, to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – says that Britain has now cut emissions of sulphur by 80 per cent and those of nitrogen by 40 per cent since their peaks and that these are still falling.

The cut in sulphur was largely brought about by switching electricity generation from oil and coal to less polluting gas and nuclear power, and by saving energy. Nitrogen emissions went on rising for much longer because of the growth in traffic – the main source of the pollution – but then fell, partly because of the introduction of catalytic converters on car exhausts.

Much the same has happened across Europe, where emissions of sulphur have been cut by 41 per cent and those of nitrogen by 21 per cent since 1990. The Continent has consistently beaten the clean-up targets it set itself.

But the report concludes that acid rain has been cut far less in western Britain – the most affected region – than in other parts of the country, because it is receiving pollution on the winds from the US and ships in the Atlantic.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ma...

Geography Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + TBA: Randstad Education Reading: Geography Teacher neede...

***Sports Graduate***

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: This role has arisen due to inc...

Business StudiesTeacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past