Speech on Environmental Pollution
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It is a pleasure for me to address you today. The matter that I wish to discuss is the problem of environmental pollution, which, as you have probably heard, is becoming direr and direr with each passing day. In particular, air pollution poses a major threat both to the natural world and to human society.
Exhaust gas emissions often contain sulfur dioxide, which reacts with the oxygen and water steam contained in the air to form highly corrosive sulfuric acid:
2SO2 + O2 → 2SO3
SO3 + H2O → H2SO4
Nitrogen oxides also react with oxygen, forming other oxides with more oxygen atoms in them, which then react with water steams, forming highly corrosive nitric acid:
3NO2 + H2O → 2HNO3 + NO
These then form noxious precipitations such as acid rain or smog, which profoundly upset the balance in the local ecosystems. The acidification of water bodies leads to the death of numerous species that are susceptible to the presence of acid. This causes other living organisms feeding on the destroyed species to also die out, etc. Simultaneously, creatures the population of which was previously controlled by the destroyed species start multiplying rapidly, possibly destroying even other organisms, and so on (Likens & Bormann, 1974). Acidic rain also has profoundly adverse effects on plants; whole forests may die (Walgate, 1983). Furthermore, acidic precipitation directly harms human society by increasing the rates of respiratory disease, quickly corroding and destroying buildings, roads, industrial objects, etc. (Likens & Bormann, 1974).
Hungary is suffering severely from air pollution. This is easy to see once one knows what happened to the Black Forest, where the trees have been dying out rapidly (Walgate, 1983). Part of the problem is caused by the fact that Hungary is currently forced to use lignite (brown coal) to produce electricity. Lignite contains up to 10% of sulfur and thus greatly contributes to air pollution.
Another problem is the high concentrations of CO in the air, caused by car gas emissions. CO reacts with other components of the air, creating harmful concentrations of ground-level ozone, which hurts people’s health.
While the problem of high CO concentrations is local, the issue of acidic precipitations is not. Acidic clouds can be easily carried by the wind throughout the continent, which means that exhaust gas emissions from Hungary can be harmful to the rest of the European countries. This means that not only our country but your countries as well have a dire interest in reducing air pollution in Hungary.
Furthermore, most of the air pollution in Hungary is imported from other European countries. Therefore, the deterioration of the Black Forest and the economic expenses that we currently face are also partially due to the industrial activity of other European countries. Needless to say, everyone should be interested in preserving biological diversity represented by e.g. the mentioned Black Forest; besides, it stretches through other countries as well–for example, through German territories.
There are several ways in which air pollution can be reduced in Hungary. One option is pollution controls on cars, which can decrease the exhaust of CO. Currently, we have certain regulations about pollution controls, but we may have to make them stricter in the nearest future. I understand that this might increase the cost of production of vehicles, but if we do not introduce greater measures, the money will go on medication for respiratory diseases. I believe people should stay healthy and spend more money on cars than vice versa.
Another way is related to decreasing the amount of sulfur and nitrogen emissions. This matter is of utmost urgency and is also difficult to address. As was mentioned, lignite is practically the only fossil fuel that Hungary can easily obtain to produce electricity. It would be practically impossible for Hungary to completely transfer to alternative sources of energy. Nevertheless, it is possible to install flue-gas desulfurization technologies to remove the sulfur oxides from the plants’ exhaust gasses. However, scrubbers are very costly, and in our current situation, we will be able to afford only a very small number of them, far lower than needed to decrease the air pollution to acceptable levels. This is why we require your assistance in this matter. Please remember that our pollution is also transferred to other European countries by the wind.
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Also, we are currently planning to start switching to alternative sources of energy; as was mentioned, a complete transfer is impossible, but we can transfer to them partially. While nuclear energy might appear an attractive proposal, practice shows that considerable safety concerns exist (Zeigler, Brunn, & Johnson, 1981); also, nuclear waste is exceptionally difficult to dispose of. Therefore, we have plans of switching to wind and hydroelectric power. Clearly, wind power plants cause noise pollution and may kill animals caught in the turbines, and water power plants are also harmful to the environment, their adverse effect is very small in comparison to that of the sulfur and nitrogen emissions from burning fossils. Thankfully, as a socialistic government, we have control over our industrial capacities; however, we still lack the resources needed to implement transfer to alternative sources of energy to a sufficient degree.
I believe that you both understand our current dire situation and care about the ecological future of your own countries. I should also point out one crucial matter, namely, that your cooperation in this issue will provide Hungary with a greatly increased incentive to sign the treaties here in Geneva. Thus, I hope that you will help us financially to overcome these problems.
Thank you for your attention.
Likens, G. E., & Bormann, F. H. (1974). Acid rain: A serious regional environmental problem. Science, 14(4142), 1176-1179. Web.
Walgate, R. (1983). Too late for Black Forest? Nature, 303, 742.
Zeigler, D. J., Brunn, S. D., & Johnson, J. H. Jr. (1981). Evacuation from a nuclear technological disaster. Geographical Review, 71(1), 1-16. Web.