Presenter: Emily Nicholls
Paper: Impacts of climate change on future air quality and human health in China
Authors: Chaopeng Hong, Qiang Zhang, Yang Zhang, Steven J. Davis, Dan Tong, Yixuan Zheng, Zhu Liu, Dabo Guan,
Kebin He, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber
In recent years, air pollution has caused more than 1 million deaths per year in China, making it a major focus of public health efforts. However, future climate change may exacerbate such human health impacts by increasing the frequency and duration of weather conditions that enhance air pollution exposure. Here, we use a combination of climate, air quality, and epidemiological models to assess future air pollution deaths in a changing climate under Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5). We find that, assuming pollution emissions and population are held constant at current levels, climate change would adversely affect future air quality for >85% of China’s population (∼55% of land area) by the middle of the century, and would increase by 3% and 4% the population-weighted average concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone, respectively. As a result, we estimate an additional 12,100 and 8,900 Chinese (95% confidence interval: 10,300 to 13,800 and 2,300 to 14,700, respectively) will die per year from PM2.5 and ozone exposure, respectively. The important underlying climate mechanisms are changes in extreme conditions such as atmospheric stagnation and heat waves (contributing 39% and 6%, respectively, to the increase in mortality). Additionally, greater vulnerability of China’s aging population will further increase the estimated deaths from PM2.5 and ozone in 2050 by factors of 1 and 3, respectively. Our results indicate that climate change and more intense extremes are likely to increase the risk of severe pollution events in China. Managing air quality in China in a changing climate will thus become more challenging.