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Problems and Concerns caused by Human Influences on the Environment Index

Agriculture
Depletion of the Ozone Layer and the Greenhouse Effect
Factory Farming
Famine
Fishing
Fossil Fuels
Industry
Natural Resources
Nuclear Energy
Oil Spills
Traffic
Domestic Wastes
Water Pollution

Human Influences on the Environment Homepage
Human Influences on the Environment : Questions

Topic Chapters Index

 

Composition of the Air

Over 200 years ago, the French scientist Antoine Lavoisier measured the chemical composition of air. Since the gases which make up the atmosphere are invisible, the best way to visualize them is by expressing them as percentages and by using a pie chart. It is important to note that oxygen gas, whose chemical symbol is 02, is not the main component of air and that carbon dioxide, C02, represents much less than one percent.

 

Gas

Percentage of Atmosphere

Nitrogen

78%

Oxygen

21%

Carbon dioxide

0,03%

Other gases

less than 1%

 

Pie chart showing composition of Earth's atmosphere © Alan Damon

Composition of the Earth's Atmosphere

You can see the apparatus Lavoisier used to measure the atmosphere at the Musée des arts et Métiers in Paris

 

PROBLEMS AND CONCERNS CAUSED BY HUMAN INFLUENCES ON THE ENVIRONMENT

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Acid Rain

 

Factory pollution

 

The Earth's atmosphere is a mixture of gases. It is important to notice that the percentage of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere is normally very low. One reason for this is because carbon dioxide gas is quite soluble in water. As rainwater moves through the atmosphere towards the Earth's surface, carbon dioxide gas dissolves in it. This is the reason why rainwater is slightly acidic. Carbon dioxide dissolves in rainwater to form carbonic acid.

There are other gases, such as sulphur dioxide, which may be found in the Earth's atmosphere. These gases are produced naturally and usually in small quantities from certain areas of the Earth's surface. When larger quantities are produced by cars, airplanes and factories, acid rain becomes a problem.

 

Acid rain has severely affected German forests. In 1983 the German Minister for Agriculture admitted that 34% of German forests were dying from acid rain pollution. In 1988 this percentage had risen to 52,4% of forestland. At least 70% of the oak trees in these forests are affected.

 

Acid rain damage © Gérard Tempkine

 

Acid rain can destroy entire forests and kill entire populations of fish in lakes. What environmental factor is so drastically changed that it kills organisms?

 

Airplane at Roissy, Paris © Shirley Burchill

 

The jet engines of an airplane produce considerable quantities of carbon dioxide.

 

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