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Controlling Air Pollution: How Developed & Developing Nations Differ

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  • 0:08 What Is Air Pollution?
  • 0:41 The Clean Air Act
  • 2:33 In Devloped Nations
  • 3:58 In Developing Nations
  • 4:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

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.

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