In this lesson, you will learn how air pollution is controlled in developed and developing nations. You will also learn about the U.S. Clean Air Act and how it has evolved over the years to address air pollution in the United States.
What Is Air Pollution?
As we learned in another lesson, air pollution is when contaminants enter the atmosphere. Sources of air pollution include vehicle emissions, power plants, industrial factories and natural sources, such as volcanoes and forest fires.Air pollution poses serious risks to human health, and to deal with this in the U.S., we currently have regulations in place to improve air quality. Let’s go back in time a bit to explore how these regulations came to be, and then we’ll look at how air pollution control differs between developed and developing countries.
The Clean Air Act
First, we travel to 1955, which is an important milestone because this is the year the Air Pollution Control Act is enacted.
This legislation was groundbreaking because it was the first legislation in the U.S. to deal with air pollution. It also provided funding for research on the sources of air pollution as well as their impacts.
Next, we go to 1963, which is when the Clean Air Act is created. Built from the Air Pollution Control Act, this legislation goes even further by addressing the control of air pollution, not just understanding its sources and effects. This was a turning point because in addition to funds for research, the legislation now provided funding for both monitoring and controlling pollution as well.Fast forward to 1970 when the Clean Air Act is amended so thoroughly that it becomes the Clean Air Act of 1970. This law set stricter standards for air quality and limited emissions from both stationary and mobile sources (industrial and vehicle emissions). The amendment also included another revolutionary provision: the ability for citizens to sue those who violate the emissions standards set forth by the law.
This was the first federal environmental law to allow this.The amendments of 1970 also led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA), which is charged with implementing and enforcing the standards and requirements of the legislation.Our last stop is in 1990, when the Clean Air Act is significantly amended yet again. This new legislation further strengthened regulations for air quality standards, vehicle emissions, acid deposition, ozone depletion and toxic air pollution.
It also increased the responsibility and authority of the federal government regarding these new standards.
Air Pollution in Developed Nations
Air pollution control legislation in developed nations leads to a reduction of emissions from a variety of sources. Individuals can reduce their energy use as well as invest in energy efficient technologies, such as high efficiency appliances and light bulbs. Focusing on renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power, will also reduce our use of fossil fuels for electricity and limit emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere.Vehicles have also become more efficient in an effort to control air pollution. Not only are hybrid vehicles becoming more popular, but standard combustion vehicles now get far better gas mileage than ever.
Cities are also becoming more bike friendly and are improving public transportation. International regulations have also helped reduce air pollution from developed nations.In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was developed to legally mandate the signing countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from 2008-2012. In 2012, it was amended to include a new reduction target period of 2013-2020. This treaty was designed to ensure commitment to reduce air pollution from developed nations, who are the leading producers of such pollution. Despite being one of the world’s most industrially developed nations, the U.
S. is not a part of this agreement.
Air Pollution in Developing Nations
Developing nations experience air pollution from the same sources as developed ones. Industrial activities, transportation and burning of fossil fuels for energy all contribute to unclean air in these areas of the world. However, though there is significant legislation to control air pollution in developed countries, developing nations tend to lack this regulation.
They do not have the same ability to enforce air quality standards because they lack the technological, governmental or economic resources to do so.Developing nations also tend to sacrifice pollution control for economic growth. As nations become more industrialized, they become more economically stable, and this fuels the desire for further growth. Air pollution control is put on the back burner because regulations and enforcement can stall development.
However, this can actually cause more economic harm than good because environmental and health costs increase as a result of the increased air pollution.
Air pollution is when contaminants enter the atmosphere, and since air doesn’t obey boundaries and borders, it’s a global problem. For both developed and developing nations, air pollution comes from vehicle emissions, industrial and manufacturing activities and energy-producing power plants.In 1963, the U.S. Clean Air Act was developed to address the control of air pollution, in addition to understanding its sources and impacts.
It was significantly amended in 1970 to include stricter standards, limit emissions from mobile and stationary sources and allow citizens to sue those violating the standards of the law. This led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, which was designed to implement and enforce the standards and requirements of the legislation. The Act was further amended in 1990 to strengthen standards and regulations even more.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 is an international treaty designed to curb global greenhouse gas emissions, specifically aimed at developed nations since they are a major producer of these pollutants. This agreement intended to reduce emissions from 2008-2012, with a new commitment period now added for 2013-2020.While sources may not differ for developed and developing nations, control of air pollution certainly does. Developing nations often do not have the resources to regulate and enforce air pollution control. The desire itself may also be sidelined to increase growth, but this often leads to harmful economic and health costs for the citizens of these nations.
After seeing this video lesson, you should be able to:
- Define air pollution and list some of its sources
- Summarize the history of legislation in the United States dealing with air pollution
- Describe some steps people in developed nations might take to reduce air pollution
- Explain why the Kyoto Protocol was developed
- Understand why developing nations tend to have less legislation regarding air pollution than developed nations