Sunday, December 28, 2008

Whatever Happened To Acid Rain And Why Didn't It Have Any Staying Power

I saw some dead trees on the edge of a swamp the other day and recalled the iconic "acid rain" forest pictures in the 1980's. Back then, anywhere there was a patch of dead trees, people automatically thought...hmmm acid rain is killing the earth...making us sick.

Looking back, acid rain hysteria ended up as a footnote sandwiched between global cooling and the ozone hole. A lousy place historically if your job required research money. (Side note: An interesting bit of research would be finding out what those acid rain PhD's are publishing today...any guesses?)

I'll admit, I'm a child of the 80's. So looking back at that era can be tough sometimes. The clothes were awful. And now I have to admit that our attempts to terrorize the public through research were just as bad as the hair.

It started well enough with articles such as Likens (1984), "Acid rain: the smokestack is the smoking gun." That's good stuff on the face of it, Al Gore used the same imagery to great effect.

We had people out there chasing acid rain snowstorms and acid rain thunderstorms. We had tipping points, mass extinction predictions. Everything was in place. My generation was about to do something that would be remembered forever. Then...

The 1990's.

That first big Nirvana CD should have been a clue. The public was craving something more serious. We offered them the death of a salamander and the 1990's gave the public the whole damn world in peril.

I can't blame the public for taking to global warming the way they did. You are not going to make movies with acid rain showers chasing frogs. But ice hurricanes chasing actors! Whew. That's good stuff.

I guess acid rain never really stood a chance. Sure, the data never matched the claims. And the earth has natural balancing systems we didn't know about when we chose acid rain in the first place, but that has never stopped global warming. I'm not bitter (OK, a little). I just have to admit that global warming is a better product and we had a nice little run back in the day.

Just don't expect me to be sorry when you fail global warming.

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