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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 13, issue 3 | Copyright
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 1377-1394, 2013
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-13-1377-2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 04 Feb 2013

Research article | 04 Feb 2013

Air pollution and associated human mortality: the role of air pollutant emissions, climate change and methane concentration increases from the preindustrial period to present

Y. Fang*,1, V. Naik2, L. W. Horowitz3, and D. L. Mauzerall4,1 Y. Fang et al.
  • 1Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA
  • 2UCAR/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, 08540, USA
  • 3NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, 08540, USA
  • 4Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544, USA
  • *now at: Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

Abstract. Increases in surface ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (≤2.5 μm aerodynamic diameter, PM2.5) are associated with excess premature human mortalities. We estimate changes in surface O3 and PM2.5 from pre-industrial (1860) to present (2000) and the global present-day (2000) premature human mortalities associated with these changes. We extend previous work to differentiate the contribution of changes in three factors: emissions of short-lived air pollutants, climate change, and increased methane (CH4) concentrations, to air pollution levels and associated premature mortalities. We use a coupled chemistry-climate model in conjunction with global population distributions in 2000 to estimate exposure attributable to concentration changes since 1860 from each factor. Attributable mortalities are estimated using health impact functions of long-term relative risk estimates for O3 and PM2.5 from the epidemiology literature. We find global mean surface PM2.5 and health-relevant O3 (defined as the maximum 6-month mean of 1-h daily maximum O3 in a year) have increased by 8 ± 0.16 μg m−3 and 30 ± 0.16 ppbv (results reported as annual average ±standard deviation of 10-yr model simulations), respectively, over this industrial period as a result of combined changes in emissions of air pollutants (EMIS), climate (CLIM) and CH4 concentrations (TCH4). EMIS, CLIM and TCH4 cause global population-weighted average PM2.5 (O3) to change by +7.5 ± 0.19 μg m−3 (+25 ± 0.30 ppbv), +0.4 ± 0.17 μg m−3 (+0.5 ± 0.28 ppbv), and 0.04 ± 0.24 μg m−3 (+4.3 ± 0.33 ppbv), respectively. Total global changes in PM2.5 are associated with 1.5 (95% confidence interval, CI, 1.2–1.8) million cardiopulmonary mortalities and 95 (95% CI, 44–144) thousand lung cancer mortalities annually and changes in O3 are associated with 375 (95% CI, 129–592) thousand respiratory mortalities annually. Most air pollution mortality is driven by changes in emissions of short-lived air pollutants and their precursors (95% and 85% of mortalities from PM2.5 and O3 respectively). However, changing climate and increasing CH4 concentrations also contribute to premature mortality associated with air pollution globally (by up to 5% and 15%, respectively). In some regions, the contribution of climate change and increased CH4 together are responsible for more than 20% of the respiratory mortality associated with O3 exposure. We find the interaction between climate change and atmospheric chemistry has influenced atmospheric composition and human mortality associated with industrial air pollution. Our study highlights the benefits to air quality and human health of CH4 mitigation as a component of future air pollution control policy.

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