Simulations suggest reduced air pollution would improve public health
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions should improve air quality and thereby save millions of people’s lives by the end of the century, new simulations find.
Burning fossil fuels emits both climate-warming gases and other air pollutants such as particulate matter. Greenhouse gases also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, the main component of smog. Because particulate matter and ozone can cause heart and lung disease, researchers think that reducing greenhouse gases would improve public health.
J. Jason West of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and colleagues simulated climate and air quality through 2100. In a simulation with reductions in fossil fuel use, the model found 2.2 million premature deaths per year could be avoided by the beginning of the next century, compared with a simulation without climate change mitigation.
The greenhouse gas cuts also make economic sense, the researchers say. The benefit of reducing pollution-related deaths, compared with the costs of mitigation, equals $50 to $380 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, the team reports September 22 in Nature Climate Change.
J.J. West et al. Co-benefits of mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions for future air quality and human health. Nature Climate Change. Published online September 22, 2013. doi:10.1038/nclimate2009.
D. Powell. Small efforts to reduce methane, soot could have big effect. Science News. Vol. 181, February 11, 2012, p. 12.
A. Witze. A prescription for complexity: public health and climate change. Science News Online, August 15, 2011.
S. Perkins. Aerosols cloud the climate picture. Science News. Vol. 176, November 21, 2009, p. 5.