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Biology LibreTexts

10: Air Pollution, Climate Change, & Ozone Depletion

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  • Learning Outcomes

    • Identify sources of air pollution
    • List common air pollutants
    • Explain how the greenhouse effect causes the atmosphere to retain heat
    • Explain how we know that humans are responsible for recent climate change
    • List some effects of climate change
    • Identify some climate change policies and adaptation measures

    • 10.1: Atmospheric Pollution
      Air pollution occurs in many forms but can generally be thought of as gaseous and particulate contaminants that are present in the earth’s atmosphere. Chemicals discharged into the air that have a direct impact on the environment are called primary pollutants. These primary pollutants sometimes react with other chemicals in the air to produce secondary pollutants.
    • 10.2: Ozone Depletion
      The ozone depletion process begins when CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are emitted into the atmosphere. CFC molecules are extremely stable, and they do not dissolve in rain. After a period of several years, ODS molecules reach the stratosphere, about 10 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. CFCs were used by industry as refrigerants, degreasing solvents, and propellants.
    • 10.3: Acid Rain
      Acid rain is a term referring to a mixture of wet and dry deposition (deposited material) from the atmosphere containing higher than normal amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids. The precursors, or chemical forerunners, of acid rain formation result from both natural sources, such as volcanoes and decaying vegetation, and man-made sources, primarily emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and nitrogen oxides (NOₓ) resulting from fossil fuel combustion.
    • 10.4: Climate Change
      Earth’s temperature depends on the balance between energy entering and leaving the planet. When incoming energy from the sun is absorbed, Earth warms. When the sun’s energy is reflected back into space, Earth avoids warming. When energy is released from Earth into space, the planet cools. Many factors, both natural and human, can cause changes in Earth’s energy balance.
    • 10.5: Chapter Resources

    Thumbnail image - Traffic congestion is a daily reality of India’s urban centers. Slow speeds and idling vehicles produce, per trip, 4 to 8 times more pollutants and consume more carbon footprint fuels, than free flowing traffic. This 2008 image shows traffic congestion in Delhi.