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The impact of European legislative and technology measures to reduce air pollutants on air quality, human health and climate

Turnock, S. T., Butt, E. W., Richardson, T. B., Mann, G. W., Reddington, C. L., Forster, P. M., Haywood, J., Crippa, M., Janssens-Maenhout, G., Johnson, C. E., Bellouin, N., Carslaw, K. S. and Spracklen, D. V. (2016) The impact of European legislative and technology measures to reduce air pollutants on air quality, human health and climate. Environmental Research Letters, 11 (2). 024010. ISSN 1748-9326

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/2/024010

Abstract/Summary

European air quality legislation has reduced emissions of air pollutants across Europe since the 1970s, affecting air quality, human health and regional climate. We used a coupled composition-climate model to simulate the impacts of European air quality legislation and technology measures implemented between 1970 and 2010. We contrast simulations using two emission scenarios; one with actual emissions in 2010 and the other with emissions that would have occurred in 2010 in the absence of technological improvements and end-of-pipe treatment measures in the energy, industrial and road transport sectors. European emissions of sulphur dioxide, black carbon (BC) and organic carbon in 2010 are 53%, 59% and 32% lower respectively compared to emissions that would have occurred in 2010 in the absence of legislative and technology measures. These emission reductions decreased simulated European annual mean concentrations of fine particulate matter(PM2.5) by 35%, sulphate by 44%, BC by 56% and particulate organic matter by 23%. The reduction in PM2.5 concentrations is calculated to have prevented 80 000 (37 000–116 000, at 95% confidence intervals) premature deaths annually across the European Union, resulting in a perceived financial benefit to society of US$232 billion annually (1.4% of 2010 EU GDP). The reduction in aerosol concentrations due to legislative and technology measures caused a positive change in the aerosol radiative effect at the top of atmosphere, reduced atmospheric absorption and also increased the amount of solar radiation incident at the surface over Europe. We used an energy budget approximation to estimate that these changes in the radiative balance have increased European annual mean surface temperatures and precipitation by 0.45 ± 0.11 °C and by 13 ± 0.8 mm yr−1 respectively. Our results show that the implementation of European legislation and technological improvements to reduce the emission of air pollutants has improved air quality and human health over Europe, as well as having an unintended impact on the regional radiative balance and climate.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:62044
Publisher:Institute of Physics

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