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Acid rain limits global warming
Acid rain restricts global warming by reducing methane emissions from natural wetland areas, suggests a global climate study.
Acid rain is the result of industrial pollution, which causes rainwater to carry small quantities of acidic compounds such as sulphuric and nitric acid. Contaminated rainwater can upset rivers and lakes, killing fish and other organisms and also damage plants, trees and buildings.
But the new study shows that sulphur in acid rain, may have benefits, limiting global warming by counteracting the natural production of methane gases by microbes in wetland areas.
Methane is thought to account for 22 percent of the human-enhanced greenhouse effect. And microbes in wetland areas are its biggest producers. They feed off substrates such as hydrogen and acetate in peat and emit methane into the atmosphere.
Global warming itself will only fuel the production of methane as heating up the microbes causes them to produce even more methane. But the new model suggests that sulphur pollution from industry cancels this out.
We travelled with Danish scientist Carl Boggild of GEUS, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.
For the past few years he has been managing a network of 10 automatic monitoring stations and his first results are alarming - the edges of the ice-sheet are melting up to 10 times more rapidly than earlier research had indicated.
Dr Boggild is all too aware of how easily he could be accused of jumping onto a climate change bandwagon.
But he is adamant that the results he has gathered so far are reliable.
"We can say for certain that the rate of melting has increased and we can say for certain that the height of the ice-sheet is falling, even allowing for increased ice-flow.
"There is no doubt that something very major is happening here."
He has also served the world at large by raising awareness of the gravity of the issue of global warming and greenhouse emissions, one that poses undeniable danger to the planet as a whole. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its Third Assessment Report, estimates a projected sea level rise of 0.88 m to 0.9 m for 1990 to 2100.
“There are clear indications that in the Maldives the sea level has been rising three to four millimeters per year, which is in accordance with the IPCC projection,” says Mohamed Ali, Director of Environmental Research at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment. “What happens in the next 30 years we don't know, but at least from the little we have record of we know the sea level is rising and doing so quite steadily.”