Mid-21st century ozone air quality and health burden in China under emissions scenarios and climate change

Westervelt, Daniel M.; Ma, Clara; He, Mike Zhongyu; Fiore, Arlene M.; Kinney, Patrick L.; Kioumourtzoglou, Marianthi-Anna; Wang, Shuxiao; Xing, Jia; Ding, Dian; Correa, Gustavo P.

Despite modest emissions reductions of air pollutants in recent years, China still suffers from poor air quality, and the outlook for future air quality in China is uncertain. We explore the impact of two disparate 2050 emissions scenarios relative to 2015 in the context of a changing climate with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Atmospheric Model version 3 (GFDL-AM3) chemistry-climate model. We impose the same near-term climate change for both emission scenarios by setting global sea surface temperature (SST) and sea ice cover (SIC) to the average over 2010–2019 and 2046–2055, respectively, from a three-member ensemble of GFDL coupled climate model simulations under the RCP8.5 (Representative Concentration Pathway) scenario. By the 2050s, annual mean surface ozone increases throughout China by up to 8 ppbv from climate change alone (estimated by holding air pollutants at 2015 levels while setting SIC and SST to 2050 conditions in the model) and by 8–12 ppbv in a scenario in which emissions of ozone precursors nitrogen oxides (NO x ) and anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) increase by ~10%. In a scenario in which NO x and anthropogenic VOC emissions decline by 60%, annual mean surface ozone over China decreases by 16–20 ppbv in the 2050s relative to the 2010s. The ozone increase from climate change alone results in an additional 62 000 premature deaths in China as compared to 330 000 fewer premature deaths by the 2050s under a strong emissions mitigation scenario. In springtime over Southwestern China in the 2050s, the model projects 9–12 ppbv enhancements to surface ozone from the stratosphere (diagnosed with a model tracer) and from international anthropogenic emissions (diagnosed by differencing AM3 simulations with the same emissions within China but higher versus lower emissions in the rest of the world). Our findings highlight the effectiveness of emissions controls in reducing the health burden in China due to air pollution, and also the potential for climate change and rising global emissions to offset, at least partially, some of the ozone decreases attained with regional emission reductions in China.

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Environmental Research Letters

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