Articles | Volume 11, issue 14
Research article
25 Jul 2011
Research article |  | 25 Jul 2011

Impacts of global, regional, and sectoral black carbon emission reductions on surface air quality and human mortality

S. C. Anenberg, K. Talgo, S. Arunachalam, P. Dolwick, C. Jang, and J. J. West

Abstract. As a component of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), black carbon (BC) is associated with premature human mortality. BC also affects climate by absorbing solar radiation and reducing planetary albedo. Several studies have examined the climate impacts of BC emissions, but the associated health impacts have been studied less extensively. Here, we examine the surface PM2.5 and premature mortality impacts of halving anthropogenic BC emissions globally and individually from eight world regions and three major economic sectors. We use a global chemical transport model, MOZART-4, to simulate PM2.5 concentrations and a health impact function to calculate premature cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths. We estimate that halving global anthropogenic BC emissions reduces outdoor population-weighted average PM2.5 by 542 ng m−3 (1.8 %) and avoids 157 000 (95 % confidence interval, 120 000–194 000) annual premature deaths globally, with the vast majority occurring within the source region. Most of these avoided deaths can be achieved by halving emissions in East Asia (China; 54 %), followed by South Asia (India; 31 %), however South Asian emissions have 50 % greater mortality impacts per unit BC emitted than East Asian emissions. Globally, halving residential, industrial, and transportation emissions contributes 47 %, 35 %, and 15 % to the avoided deaths from halving all anthropogenic BC emissions. These contributions are 1.2, 1.2, and 0.6 times each sector's portion of global BC emissions, owing to the degree of co-location with population globally. We find that reducing BC emissions increases regional SO4 concentrations by up to 28 % of the magnitude of the regional BC concentration reductions, due to reduced absorption of radiation that drives photochemistry. Impacts of residential BC emissions are likely underestimated since indoor PM2.5 exposure is excluded. We estimate ∼8 times more avoided deaths when BC and organic carbon (OC) emissions are halved together, suggesting that these results greatly underestimate the full air pollution-related mortality benefits of BC mitigation strategies which generally decrease both BC and OC. The choice of concentration-response factor and health effect thresholds affects estimated global avoided deaths by as much as 56 % but does not strongly affect the regional distribution. Confidence in our results would be strengthened by reducing uncertainties in emissions, model parameterization of aerosol processes, grid resolution, and PM2.5 concentration-mortality relationships globally.

Final-revised paper