Ambient air pollution from ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is associated with premature mortality. Future concentrations of these air pollutants will be driven by natural and anthropogenic emissions and by climate change. Using anthropogenic and biomass burning emissions projected in the four Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios (RCPs), the ACCMIP ensemble of chemistry-climate models simulated future concentrations of ozone and PM2.5 at selected decades between 2000 and 2100. We use output from the ACCMIP ensemble, together with projections of future population and baseline mortality rates, to quantify the human premature mortality impacts of future ambient air pollution. Future air-pollution-related premature mortality in 2030, 2050 and 2100 is estimated for each scenario and for each model using a health impact function based on changes in concentrations of ozone and PM2.5 relative to 2000 and projected future population and baseline mortality rates. Additionally, the global mortality burden of ozone and PM2.5 in 2000 and each future period is estimated relative to 1850 concentrations, using present-day and future population and baseline mortality rates. The change in future ozone concentrations relative to 2000 is associated with excess global premature mortality in some scenarios/periods, particularly in RCP8.5 in 2100 (316 thousandyear-1), likely driven by the large increase in methane emissions and by the net effect of climate change projected in this scenario, but it leads to considerable avoided premature mortality for the three other RCPs. However, the global mortality burden of ozone markedly increases from 382000 (121000 to 728000)year-1 in 2000 to between 1.09 and 2.36 millionyear-1 in 2100, across RCPs, mostly due to the effect of increases in population and baseline mortality rates. PM2.5 concentrations decrease relative to 2000 in all scenarios, due to projected reductions in emissions, and are associated with avoided premature mortality, particularly in 2100: between-2.39 and-1.31 millionyear-1 for the four RCPs. The global mortality burden of PM2.5 is estimated to decrease from 1.70 (1.30 to 2.10) millionyear-1 in 2000 to between 0.95 and 1.55 millionyear-1 in 2100 for the four RCPs due to the combined effect of decreases in PM2.5 concentrations and changes in population and baseline mortality rates. Trends in future air-pollution-related mortality vary regionally across scenarios, reflecting assumptions for economic growth and air pollution control specific to each RCP and region. Mortality estimates differ among chemistry-climate models due to differences in simulated pollutant concentrations, which is the greatest contributor to overall mortality uncertainty for most cases assessed here, supporting the use of model ensembles to characterize uncertainty. Increases in exposed population and baseline mortality rates of respiratory diseases magnify the impact on premature mortality of changes in future air pollutant concentrations and explain why the future global mortality burden of air pollution can exceed the current burden, even where air pollutant concentrations decrease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science