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Global health benefits of mitigating ozone pollution with methane emission controls

West, J. Jason; Fiore, Arlene M.; Horowitz, Larry W.; Mauzerall, Denise L.

Methane (CH4) contributes to the growing global background concentration of tropospheric ozone (O3), an air pollutant associated with premature mortality. Methane and ozone are also important greenhouse gases. Reducing methane emissions therefore decreases surface ozone everywhere while slowing climate warming, but although methane mitigation has been considered to address climate change, it has not for air quality. Here we show that global decreases in surface ozone concentrations, due to methane mitigation, result in substantial and widespread decreases in premature human mortality. Reducing global anthropogenic methane emissions by 20% beginning in 2010 would decrease the average daily maximum 8-h surface ozone by ≈1 part per billion by volume globally. By using epidemiologic ozone-mortality relationships, this ozone reduction is estimated to prevent ≈30,000 premature all-cause mortalities globally in 2030, and ≈370,000 between 2010 and 2030. If only cardiovascular and respiratory mortalities are considered, ≈17,000 global mortalities can be avoided in 2030. The marginal cost-effectiveness of this 20% methane reduction is estimated to be ≈$420,000 per avoided mortality. If avoided mortalities are valued at $1 million each, the benefit is ≈$240 per tonne of CH4 (≈$12 per tonne of CO2 equivalent), which exceeds the marginal cost of the methane reduction. These estimated air pollution ancillary benefits of climate-motivated methane emission reductions are comparable with those estimated previously for CO2. Methane mitigation offers a unique opportunity to improve air quality globally and can be a cost-effective component of international ozone management, bringing multiple benefits for air quality, public health, agriculture, climate, and energy.

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Also Published In

Title
PNAS : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0600201103

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher
National Academy of Sciences
Published Here
November 23, 2015
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