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Climate, health, agricultural and economic impacts of tighter vehicle-emission standards

Nature Climate Change volume 1, pages 5966 (2011) | Download Citation


Non-CO2 air pollutants from motor vehicles have traditionally been controlled to protect air quality and health, but also affect climate. We use global composition–climate modelling to examine the integrated impacts of adopting stringent European on-road vehicle-emission standards for these pollutants in 2015 in many developing countries. Relative to no extra controls, the tight standards lead to annual benefits in 2030 and beyond of 120,000–280,000 avoided premature air pollution-related deaths, 6.1–19.7 million metric tons of avoided ozone-related yield losses of major food crops, $US0.6–2.4 trillion avoided health damage and $US1.1–4.3 billion avoided agricultural damage, and mitigation of 0.20 (+0.14/−0.17)  °C of Northern Hemisphere extratropical warming during 2040–2070. Tighter vehicle-emission standards are thus extremely likely to mitigate short-term climate change in most cases, in addition to providing large improvements in human health and food security. These standards will not reduce CO2 emissions, however, which is required to mitigate long-term climate change.

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We thank the NASA Applied Sciences program, the ClimateWorks Foundation and the California Air Resources Board for supporting this work. We also thank T. Bond for gridding the emissions, M. Brauer for providing the PM2.5-measurement database, J. West for assistance with the population projection, B. Croes and D. Luo at CARB for their assistance and the UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone team for discussions. Conclusions expressed in this article are the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their employers.

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Author notes

    • Dorothy Koch

    Present address: Department of Energy, Washington, District of Columbia 20585, USA


  1. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, New York 10025, USA

    • Drew Shindell
    • , Greg Faluvegi
    • , Dorothy Koch
    •  & George Milly
  2. International Council for Clean Transportation, San Francisco, California 94104, USA

    • Michael Walsh
  3. US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27711, USA

    • Susan C. Anenberg
  4. Environmental Sciences and Engineering Department, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA

    • Susan C. Anenberg
  5. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra I-21027, Italy

    • Rita Van Dingenen
  6. Department of Economics, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont 05753, USA

    • Nicholas Z. Muller
  7. California Air Resources Board, Sacramento, California 95814, USA

    • Jeff Austin


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D.S. planned and led the work and writing of the paper. G.F. carried out the composition–climate modelling. M.W. carried out the emissions analyses. S.C.A. and J.A. carried out the health analyses. R.V.D. carried out the crop-yield and valuation analysis. N.Z.M. carried out the health valuation analysis. D.K. provided input on aerosol modelling. G.M. analysed the composition–climate model output. All contributed to writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Drew Shindell.

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