Global Air Quality and Health Co-Benefits of Mitigating Near-Term Climate Change through Methane and Black Carbon Emission Controls

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: Tropospheric ozone and black carbon (BC), a component of fine particulate matter (PM [less than or equal to] 2.5 pin in aerodynamic diameter; [PM.sub.2.5]), are associated with premature mortality and they disrupt global and regional climate.

OBJECTIVES: We examined the air quality and health benefits of 14 specific emission control measures targeting BC and methane, an ozone precursor, that were selected because of their potential to reduce the rate of climate change over the next 20-40 years.

METHODS: We simulated the impacts of mitigation measures on outdoor concentrations of [PM.sub.2.5] and ozone using two composition-climate models, and calculated associated changes in premature [PM.sub.2.5]-and ozone-related deaths using epidemiologically derived concentration-response functions.

RESULTS: We estimated that, for [PM.sub.2.5] and ozone, respectively, fully implementing these measures could reduce global population-weighted average surface concentrations by 23-34% and 7-17% and avoid 0.6-4.4 and 0.04-0.52 million annual premature deaths globally in 2030. More than 80% of the health benefits are estimated to occur in Asia. We estimated that BC mitigation measures would achieve approximately 98% of the deaths that would be avoided if all BC and methane mitigation measures were implemented, due to reduced BC and associated reductions of non-methane ozone precursor and organic carbon emissions as well as stronger mortality relationships for [PM.sub.2.5] relative to ozone. Although subject to large uncertainty, these estimates and conclusions are not strongly dependent on assumptions for the concentration--response function.

CONCLUSIONS: In addition to climate benefits, our findings indicate that the methane and BC emission control measures would have substantial co-benefits for air quality and public health worldwide, potentially reversing trends of increasing air pollution concentrations and mortality in Africa and South, West, and Central Asia. These projected benefits are independent of carbon dioxide mitigation measures. Benefits of BC measures are underestimated because we did not account for benefits from reduced indoor exposures and because outdoor exposure estimates were limited by model spatial resolution.

KEY WORDS: air quality, climate change, health impact analysis, outdoor air, particulate matter. Environ Health Perspect 120:831-839 (2012). http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104301 [Online 14 March 2012].

Tropospheric ozone and black carbon (BC), a component of fine particulate matter (PM [less than or equal to] 2.5 pm in aerodynamic diameter; PM2.5), have been associated with deleterious effects on human health (e.g., Jerrett et al. 2009; Laden et al. 2006; Pope et al. 2002), agriculture (e.g., Ashmore 2005), and climate (e.g., Ramanathan and Carmichael 2008). Methane, a relatively short-lived greenhouse gas (residence time 8-10 years), is an ozone precursor that affects background ozone concentrations. Controlling methane emissions may be a promising means of simultaneously mitigating climate change and reducing global ozone concentrations, compared with controlling shorter-lived ozone precursors [nitrogen oxides (N[O.sub.x]), carbon monoxide (CO), and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs)] (West et al. 2006, 2007). The latter may have larger and more immediate air quality and health benefits near the areas with emission reductions but smaller benefits (CO, NMVOC) or net disbenefits (N[0.sub.x]) for climate. Major anthropogenic sources of methane include fossil fuel production and distribution, landfills, livestock, rice cultivation, and wastewater treatment. BC is a product of incomplete combustion from sources such as biomass burning, transportation (mainly diesel vehicles), residential combustion, and industry, and is coemitted with other pollutants, including N[0.sub.x], NMVOCs, CO, sulfur dioxide (S[O.sub.2]), and organic carbon. …