In this ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, the average world citizen 40 years from now will experience similar air pollution to that of today’s average East Asian citizen. These conclusions are those of a study published today in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an Open Access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Air pollution is a major health risk that may worsen with increasing industrial activity. At present, urban outdoor air pollution causes 1.3 million estimated deaths per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation .
“Strong actions and further effective legislation are essential to avoid the drastic deterioration of air quality, which can have severe effects on human health,” concludes the team of scientists, led by Andrea Pozzer of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy (now at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Germany), in the new paper.
The researchers studied the impact of man-made emissions on air quality, assuming past emission trends continue and no additional climate change and air pollution reduction measures (beyond what is in place since 2005) are implemented. They point out that, while pessimistic, the global emissions trends indicate such continuation.
“At present the post-Kyoto climate negotiations are progressing slowly, and it is unclear how air quality policies will develop globally,” explains co-author Greet Janssens-Maenhout of the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Italy. “In regions with economic growth, it might be less effective to implement emission-reduction measures due to strong growth in activities in particular sectors; in countries suffering from the economic downturn, implementing expensive air-quality measures could prove difficult in coming years,” she adds.
“We show that further legislation to control and reduce man-made emissions is needed, in particular for eastern China and northern India, to avoid hot-spots of elevated air pollution,” says Pozzer. Combined with the fact that these are regions of high population density, elevated air pollution here would mean that air quality would worsen significantly for the average world citizen in 2050.
Air pollution would also increase in Europe and North America, but to a much lesser extent than in Asia, due to the effect of mitigation policies that have been in place for over two decades.
Pozzer and his colleagues estimated air quality in 2005, 2010, 2025 and 2050 using an atmospheric chemistry model. “The model uses basic mathematical formulation to predict the meteorology and the chemical composition of the atmosphere,” Pozzer explains. “In practice, it is a software used to forecast – or hindcast, for past years – the status of the atmosphere at specific times.”
The results show that in 2025 and 2050, under the business-as-usual scenario studied, East Asia will be exposed to high levels of pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) . Northern India and the Arabian Gulf region, on the other hand, will suffer a marked increase in ozone levels.
The analysis now published is the first to include all five major air pollutants know to negatively impact human health: PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. The scientists considered pollutants released through human activity, as well as those occurring naturally such as desert dust, sea spray, or volcanic emissions.
Taking all pollutants into account, eastern China, northern India, the Middle East, and North Africa are projected to have the world’s poorest air quality in the future. In the latter locations this is due to a combination of natural desert dust and man-induced ozone. The effect of anthropogenic pollution emissions are predicted to be most harmful in East and South Asia, where air pollution is projected to triple compared to current levels.
The study aimed to compare the influence of man-made emissions on air quality in different regions, and show how no-further legislation to reduce emissions can result in drastic deterioration of air quality worldwide compared to the present day situation.
 World Health Organisation (WHO) ‘Air quality and health’ fact sheet (September 2011) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/index.html
 PM2.5 refers to pollutant particles less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic size, or about a quarter of the size of a cloud droplet. According to the WHO, “PM affects more people than any other pollutant.” PM2.5 is more dangerous than particulate matter of larger size because these particles can reach the smallest of airways and interfere with gas exchange in the lungs. (Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/index.html)Information for editors
The scientific article is available online, from the publication date onwards, at http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/recent_papers.html. To receive a copy of the peer-reviewed paper before publication, please contact the EGU Media and Communications Officer.The discussion paper (not peer-reviewed) and reviewers comments is available at
The team is composed of A. Pozzer (The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy; and Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, Mainz, Germany [MPIC]), P. Zimmermann (MPIC), U. M. Doering (formerly European Commission Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy [JRC]), J. van Aardenne (formerly JRC, now at European Environment Agency, based in Copenhagen, Denmark), H. Tost (Johannes–Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany), F. Dentener (JRC), G. Janssens–Maenhout (JRC), and J. Lelieveld (MPIC; The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus; and King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).
The European Geosciences Union (EGU, http://www.egu.eu/) is Europe’s premier geosciences union, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Earth, planetary, and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. It is a non-profit interdisciplinary learned association of scientists founded in 2002. The EGU has a current portfolio of 14 diverse scientific journals, which use an innovative open-access format, and organises a number of topical meetings, and education and outreach activities. Its annual General Assembly is the largest and most prominent European geosciences event, attracting over 10,000 scientists from all over the world. The meeting’s sessions cover a wide range of topics, including volcanology, planetary exploration, the Earth’s internal structure and atmosphere, climate change, and renewable energies.Contacts
Mineral discoveries in the Galapagos Islands pose a puzzle as to their formation and origin
19.10.2018 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Massive organism is crashing on our watch
18.10.2018 | S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.
Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...
Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles
Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...
When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.
We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...
Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...
Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...
17.10.2018 | Event News
16.10.2018 | Event News
02.10.2018 | Event News
19.10.2018 | Earth Sciences
19.10.2018 | Life Sciences
19.10.2018 | Health and Medicine