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Large-Scale Effects

The tall smokestacks used by industries and utilities do not remove pollutants but simply boost them higher into the atmosphere, thereby reducing their concentration at the site. These pollutants may then be transported over large distances and produce adverse effects in areas far from the site of the original emission. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions  are causing acid rain. The pH level, or relative acidity, of many freshwater lakes has been altered so dramatically by this rain that entire fish populations have been destroyed.  These effects also occur in Europe. Sulfur dioxide emissions and the subsequent formation of sulfuric acid can also be responsible for the attack on limestone and marble at large distances from the source.

 The worldwide increase in the burning of coal and oil since the late 1940s has led to ever increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide. The resulting "greenhouse effect", which allows solar energy to enter the atmosphere but reduces the reemission of infrared radiation from the earth, could conceivably lead to a warming trend that might affect the global climate and lead to a partial melting of the polar ice caps. Possibly an increase in cloud cover or absorption of excess carbon dioxide by the oceans would check the greenhouse effect before it reached the stage of polar melting. Nevertheless, research reports indicate that the greenhouse effect is definitely under way and that the nations of the world should be taking immediate steps to deal with it.


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