Pollution and Climate Change Hannah Helms

Air Pollution


Primary Pollution: Air pollutant emitted directly from a source.

Secondary Pollution: Forms when other pollutants react together.

Point Source Pollution: A single identifiable source of pollution.

Non-Point Source Pollution: Pollution caused from multiple sources, usually from run-off.

Clean Air Act

Established in: 1970

Ammended in: 1977 & 1990

Definition: The Clean Air Act (CAA) is the comprehensive law that regulates air emissions from all sources. This enabled the EPA to establish NAAQS or the National Ambient Air Quality.

How it Works: It helps limit the amount of air polllution which helps protect public health and the health of the enviroment.

Air Pollutants

Ozone (Tropospheric): Produced from cars and other gas burning substances. It can cause respirtory problems including chest pain, throat irritation, and inflame the linings of the lungs.

Carbon Dioxide: Produced from cars and other gas burning substances. It can cause lung problems that lead to death.

Mercury: Produced from volcanoes and aquatic life. It can cause lung caner and paralysis.

Nitrogen Monoxide: Produced from cars and thermal power plants. It is a component of acid rain and can cause respiratory problems.

Nitric Acid: Produced from cars and factories. It can cause chemical burns.

Peroxyacetyl Nirate: Also known as PAN. Produced by mixtures of other air pollutants. It can cause chemical smog and inhibit photsynthesis.

Volatile Organic Compounds: Also known as V.O.C.s. Produced by paints and aerosol sprays. It can cause resporatory infections and mess with the immune system.

Lead: Produced by pipes and exhaust fumes. It can cause nervous system problems.

Carbon Monoxide: Produced by burning fossil fuels. It can cause lung problems.

Particulate Matter: Produced by chemical reactions between pollutants. It can cause smog and lung problems.

Nitrogen Dioxide: Produced by burning fossil fuels. It can cause respiratory problems.

Sulfur Dioxide: Produced by volcanoes and generating electricity from coal. It can cause respiratory problems.

Sulfur Trioxide: Produced by burning sulfur. It can cause chemical burns and respiratory problems.

Sulfuric Acid: Produced by factories. It can cause lung problems and chemical burns.


The main solutions to limiting these harmful air pollutants is to limit the amount of fossil fuel burned. Most are formed from this and so would greatly decrease the amount of air pollutants if fossil fuel use was reduced. Other solutions include conserving energy and carefully containing household cleaners. A solution to help reduce indoor air pollution is to vent occasionally.


Smog is formed by two methods, industrial and photochemical.

Industrial: Composed of sulfuric acid and suspended particles from burning coal and oil. Typically in urban area and can cause asthma, lung tissue damage, etc.

Photochemical: Forms in dry, sunnier areas from high usage of all fossil fuels. This included gas and the burning of organic waste. It can cause bronchial infections, heart problems, breathing problems, etc.

Solid Waste

Types of Waste

Household: Typically from residential and commercial places. Contains items such as aluminium, plastic, cardboard, etc.

Hazardous: Includes wast from both hospitals and industries. Contains toxic substances. It can also be highly inflammable or explosive. Hazardous waste includes batteries, shoe polish, paint tins, medicine, disinfectants, thermometers, pesticide, or dye.

Hospital (Infectious) Waste: Waste from hospitals that comes from treatment of diseases. It can include waste like disposable syringes, bandages, bodily fluids, swabs, cultures, etc.

Solutions for Disposal

Recycling: Reusing things for a different purpose. It would help reduce waste while also using less materials to make things. However, not everything can be recycled.

Throw less out: If you throw less things out, less waste is generated. However, some things cannot be kept and stuff does eventually break.

Less Packaging: Less packaging means less plastics used and thrown out. However, not everything has packaging and plastics would still get thrown out.

However, none of these options give a solution to hazardous or infectious waste. So far the main "solution" is to burn the waste but that poses a problem on its own. Burning the waste releases it into the air causing air pollution.

Landfill Management

Problems: Landfills can contaminate environments that lead to the death of trees or animals. Landfills can cause severe air pollution. Landfills can contaminate water sources that can lead to all sorts of health problems. Landfills take up land that is desperately needed by animals and the growing human population. Landfills can start fires that quickly grow out of control. Landfills can generate a large economic/social cost.

Solutions: Have landfills in non-environmentally sensitive areas. Have monitoring systems that alert people when air pollution or groundwater contamination occur. Put less waste into landfills and recycle instead.

Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)

Passed: 1965

Definition: The SWDA requires environmentally sound methods for disposal of the different kinds of waste.

Amendments: The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed in 1970. The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) was passed in 1984. The Rederal Racilities Compliance Act (FFCA) was passed in 1992.

RCRA: Called for increased government involvement in waste management and introduced criteria for the disposal of hazardous waste.

HSWA: Added more stringent laws about hazardous waste including limiting disposal sites, increasing EPA involvement, and determining underground storage standards.

FFCA: Final amendment to the SWDA. It holds federal facilitates responsible for all fines and penalties stated in the SWDA.

Ozone Depletion

Layers of the Atmosphere

Troposphere: Bottom layer of the atmosphere. Holds almost all weather. Air pressure drops, and temperatures get colder as you go higher.

Stratosphere: The next layer of the atmosphere. It contains the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects us from the Sun's UV rays. The jet stream flows near the border between the Troposphere and the Stratosphere. The Stratosphere gets warmer as you go higher.

Mesosphere: The next layer. Most meteors burn up in the mesosphere. It gets colder as you move higher. It contains the coldest temperatures in the Earth's atmosphere.

Thermosphere: It is the highest layer and has highest temperatures in the atmosphere and many satellites orbit Earth within the thermosphere. The Northern and Southern Lights occur in the thermosphere.

Montreal Protocol

Passed: 1989

Revisions: 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2016.

Definition: It's purpose is to control and limit the amount of ozone depleting pollutants. It's an international treaty that is trying to phase out the production of various substances that are responsible for the ozone layer destruction.

Ground-Level Vs. Stratospheric Ozone

Ground-Level Ozone: Caused by chemical reactions between VOCs and air pollutants in the presence of sunlight. It can cause respiratory problems and is seen as a contributor to global warming.

Stratospheric Ozone: Ozone naturally formed and found in the Stratosphere. Helps protect the Earth from the harmful UV rays. Depletion of this ozone can lead to more skin cancer, sunburns, melting of the icecaps, and decrease photosynthesis in plants.

Comparison: Ground-level ozone is bad for the environment and stratospheric ozone is good for the environment.


Ground-level: Help stop emitting air pollutants. Clean the air by planting more trees and plants to help take air pollutants out of the air.

Stratospheric: Replenish the ozone by reduce emissions for factories, cars, and other fossil fuel burning sources.

Causes of Global Climate Change

Greenhouse Gases

Definition: A gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits thermal radiation. Greenhouse gases includes Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Ozone and CFCs. Carbon dioxide contributes about 9-26%. Methane is about 4-9%. Ozone is 3-7%. Water vapor/clouds contributes the most with 39-72%.

Source: Burning of fossil fuels.

Greenhouse Effect: The process by which radiation from the planet's atmosphere warms the planet's surface to levels it should not be.

EPA Regulated Air Pollutants

There are six main regulated air pollutants. There is ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

These pollutants are also called criteria air pollutants. They are mostly regulated by the Clean Air Act and are the most common air pollutants in the world. The EPA sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for them based on criteria.

El Niño

Definition: Warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Effects: Over Indonesia, rainfall decreases while rainfall increases over tropical Pacific Ocean. The easterly winds weaken or, occasionally, start to blow the other direction turning them into westerly winds. Often results in nutrient-poor water.

La Niña

Definition: Cooling of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Effects: Over Indonesia, rainfall increases while rainfall decreases over the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The easterly winds along the equator become stronger. Often results in nutrient-rich water.

Major Types of Fuel

Coal: Cheap, abundant, reliable, low capital investment, high load factor, and likely to last the longest out of fossil fuels. However coal emits lots of greenhouse gases along with most of the EPA's regulated air pollutants. Coal is also destructive while being mined. Miners die in the shafts and mines destroy wildlife habitats.

Natural Gas: Emits less pollution, fairly cheap, can be easily transported, and its infrastructure is already in place. However it is highly flammable and releases greenhouse gases.

Oil: Easily accessible, high energy density, reliable energy, easy to produce/refine, economic growth, and essential for many industries. However it nonrenewable, pollutes with greenhouse gases, oil leaks destroy environments, and can be a component of acid rain.

Effects of Global climate change

Positive Feedback Loops

Definition: A loop that enhances or amplifies changes. They tend to move a system away from its equilibrium and makes it more unstable.

Example: World population growth. A large population has a large amount of babies. Those babies in turn make the population larger. That population then has more babies which leads to bigger population. That leads to even more babies, etc.

Climate change is an example of a positive feedback loop because as the earth heats up, the ice melts. As the ice melts, trapped gases are released into the air cause the greenhouse effect. That warms up the earth more which melt more ice, which releases more gas. Greenhouse effect is worsened, more heat, less ice, more gas, etc.

Proxy Indicators

Ice Cores: Ice samples from the ice sheets in Greenland, Antartica, and North America. The water molecule isotopic compostions in ice cores help determine past temperatures. Air bubbles in the ice contain trapped greenhouse gases that are helpful in determining past climate changes.

Tree Cores: More commonly known as tree rings. Wider tree rings when conditions favour growth and narrow when conditions are rough. These help determine regional and global climates from years past.

Ocean Sediment: Study of the oxygen isotopes within the ocean sediment. They are influenced by summer temperature, winter snowfall, and rainfall in particular regions.

Coral: Skeletal rings are similar to tree rings. Stable oxygen isotopes in the calcium carbonate of the coral determine temperatures. Colder temperatures tend to cause heavier isotopes while war temperatures are more normal oxygen isotopes. Denser water salinity also tends to result in a heavier isotope.

Pollen: An abundance of pollen of a certain vegetation time depends (partially) on weather conditions of previous months. So pollen density provides information on more immediate climatic conditions.

Temperature Changes

The earth's average global temperature has increased by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880.

Temperature changes can affect both plant and animal lifestyles. Too hot of a climate can disrupt plant photosynthesis and reproduction. As the temperature rises, forest fires are more numerous, killing plants faster. Animals can't survive in certain temperatures so as things get warmer they migrate to colder regions, disrupting the life cycles of many environments.

Sea Level Changes

Overall, the sea level rise is about 20 centimeters since 1901.

As the sea level rises, it destroys the coasts. Seawater erodes coast far too fast, floods wetlands, contaminated aquifers/soils, and destroys habitats for coastal birds, animal, and plants.

Higher sea levels can result in more powerful storm surges. Human establishments will be more vulnerable to flooding. Forcing them to move inland, crowding areas and forcing more animals out of their habitats.

Changes in Precipitation

One obvious example is California. Too many people live there and with global warming, water levels were dropping far to fast, resulting in a severe drought. Suddenly it started raining too much rain.

As the earth gets warmer, more water is evaporated. That leads to more rainfall and snowfall but also means heavy downpours. Those can lead to destructive erosion and flooding of areas.

Changes in Global Ice

As the earth warms, ice melts faster than it can be replenished. This can lead to warming ocean water temperature, more extreme weather, and raising sea levels dangerously high. Less ice can lead to faster global warming.

If the Greenland Ice Sheet melts completely it can contribute an a rise in the sea level by 20 feet.

Changes in Biota

Plants start flowering earlier in the year. Freshwater phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms are also occurring earlier. Other plants/animals are migrating upward searching for colder temperatures. This could lead to extinction if they can't find the proper climates.

As more and more animals migrate northwards, less biodiversity is spread around. Those areas become bereft of plant and animal life, worse than a desert. Animals will be forced in the same regions, resulting in increased competition and faster extinction of species that can't adapt/win.


Industrial and Photochemical can both choke an environment. The lung problems the cause in humans can kill us. China has the worst case of smog which results in higher levels of asthma and other lung-related diseases. Smog can also affect plants. Smog blocks the sun, limiting the amount of plants that can survive in smog entrenched regions.

Solutions to climate Change

Kyoto Protocol

Definition: International treaty that extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Industrialized countries agreed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to certain percentage levels below 1990 levels.

192 parties have ratified the agreement. The United States did not ratify it until recently.

Carbon Offsets

Definition: A reduction in carbon emissions (or other greenhouse gases) in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere.

Buying carbon offsets help fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such projects include restoring forests, increasing energy efficiency in buildings/transportation, or research for renewable resources.

Renewable Energy

Tidal/Wave: No greenhouse gases, renewable, large energy potential, reliable (the ocean is always moving), and area efficient (doesn't take much space). However, it could affect sea life and has a high cost.

Geothermal: Efficient, low (if any) pollution, renewable, suitable for large and small scale buildings, no cost fluctuation, savings on both heating and cooling,and is not weather dependent. However, large scale plants are dangerous to the Earth's surface, emissions could include sulfur dioxide, and if it uses wells it requires a lot of water.

Wind: no water or air pollution, fairly cheap to build, potential is enormous, renewable, space-efficient, and operational costs are low. However, it could kill birds, aesthetic is ruined for some idiots, noise is annoying, and wind is not a constant source.

Solar: Renewable, abundant, available everywhere, reduction of electricity costs, and is silent. However, expensive (because of politics, idiots, all of them), energy storage is costly, manufacturing solar panels uses fossil fuels, requires space, and low power density.

Hydropower: Renewable, non-pollution of air, water, or land, and better water quality. However, it destroys home and habitats when built, floods areas, and is expensive.

Biofuel: Renewable, cleaner, inexpensive, carbon neutral. However, loss of habitat for cultivation of crops, harmful nitrous oxide is produced, and it has it limitations for use in vehicles.

The most important thing about global warming is this. Whether humans are responsible for the bulk of climate change is going to be left to the scientists, but it's all of our responsibility to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it.


Created with images by ejaugsburg - "environmental protection nature conservation ecology" • SD-Pictures - "industry sunrise sky" • gideon_wright - "Trashed Earth" • PublicDomainPictures - "sunrise nature landscape" • Unsplash - "glacier ice snow" • Unsplash - "person walking pipeline" • qimono - "woman view stockholm"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.