From Acid Rain to Climate Change

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Reis, S./Grennfelt, P./Klimont, Z./Amann, M./ApSimon, H./Hettelingh, J.-P./Holland, M./LeGall, A.-C./Maas, R./Posch, M./Spranger, T./Sutton, M.A./Williams, M. (2012), From Acid Rain to Climate Change. Science Vol. 338 No. 6111, pp. 1153-1154.





The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) was established in 1979 to control damage to ecosystems and cultural heritage from acid rain, initially in Europe. Extended by eight protocols, most recently the Gothenburg Protocol (GP) signed in 1999, it has been key for developing cross-border air pollution control strategies over the UNECE region, which includes the United States and Canada. The authors describe how recent amendments to the GP reflect improved scientific knowledge on pollution, environmental relations, and links between regional air pollution and global climate change.

The authors examine how science and policy address air pollution effects on human health and ecosystems, and climate change in Europe. They discuss how scientists and policy makers working together have developed and implemented policies to improve air quality and reduce the impacts of air pollution on human health and ecosystems over the last decades.

The authors conclude that substantial improvements have been made, for example in reducing deposition of acidifying substances on soils and ecosystems in Europe since the 1970s. However, there are still major challenges ahead. For example, emission levels of air pollutants in 2020 will still lead to an average loss of life expectancy by about four months, while excessive nitrogen deposition and consequent biodiversity loss will put more than 40 percent of Europe’s nature at risk.


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