Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Future global mortality from changes in air pollution attributable to climate change

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 16 October 2017

This article has been updated


Ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) are associated with premature human mortality1,2,3,4; their future concentrations depend on changes in emissions, which dominate the near-term5, and on climate change6,7. Previous global studies of the air-quality-related health effects of future climate change8,9 used single atmospheric models. However, in related studies, mortality results differ among models10,11,12. Here we use an ensemble of global chemistry–climate models13 to show that premature mortality from changes in air pollution attributable to climate change, under the high greenhouse gas scenario RCP8.5 (ref. 14), is probably positive. We estimate 3,340 (−30,300 to 47,100) ozone-related deaths in 2030, relative to 2000 climate, and 43,600 (−195,000 to 237,000) in 2100 (14% of the increase in global ozone-related mortality). For PM 2.5, we estimate 55,600 (−34,300 to 164,000) deaths in 2030 and 215,000 (−76,100 to 595,000) in 2100 (countering by 16% the global decrease in PM 2.5-related mortality). Premature mortality attributable to climate change is estimated to be positive in all regions except Africa, and is greatest in India and East Asia. Most individual models yield increased mortality from climate change, but some yield decreases, suggesting caution in interpreting results from a single model. Climate change mitigation is likely to reduce air-pollution-related mortality.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Impact of RCP8.5 climate change on global mortality for individual models and the multi-model average.
Figure 2: Spatial distribution of the impact of climate change on mortality.
Figure 3: Projected impact of climate change on mortality for ten world regions.

Change history

  • 16 October 2017

    In the version of this Letter originally published, the first row of Table 1, 'Base results', contained errors. These errors have been corrected in the online versions of this Letter.


  1. 1

    Jerrett, M. et al. Long-term ozone exposure and mortality. N. Engl. J. Med. 360, 1085–1095 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Krewski, D. et al. Extended follow-up and spatial analysis of the American Cancer Society study linking particulate air pollution and mortality. Respir. Rep. Health Eff. Inst. 140, 5–114 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Lepeule, J., Laden, F., Dockery, D. & Schwartz, J. Chronic exposure to fine particles and mortality: an extended follow-up of the Harvard Six Cities Study from 1974 to 2009. Environ. Health Perspect. 120, 965–970 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Burnett, R. T. et al. An integrated risk function for estimating the global burden of disease attributable to ambient fine particulate matter exposure. Environ. Health Perspect. 122, 397–403 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Kirtman, B. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 11 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Fiore, A. M., Naik, V. & Leibensperger, E. M. Air quality and climate connections. J. Air Waste Manag. Assoc. 65, 645–685 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    von Schneidemesser, E. et al. Chemistry and the linkages between air quality and climate change. Chem. Rev. 115, 3856–3897 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    West, J. J., Szopa, S. & Hauglustaine, D. A. Human mortality effects of future concentrations of tropospheric ozone. C. R. Geosci. 339, 775–783 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Selin, N. E. et al. Global health and economic impacts of future ozone pollution. Environ. Res. Lett. 4, 044014 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Post, E. S. et al. Variation in estimated ozone-related health impacts of climate change due to modeling choices and assumptions. Environ. Health Perspect. 120, 1559–1564 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Silva, R. A. et al. Global premature mortality due to anthropogenic outdoor air pollution and the contribution of past climate change. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 034005 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Silva, R. A. et al. The effect of future ambient air pollution on human premature mortality to 2100 using output from the ACCMIP model ensemble. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 16, 9847–9862 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Lamarque, J. F. et al. The Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Model Intercomparison Project (ACCMIP): overview and description of models, simulations and climate diagnostics. Geosci. Model Dev. 6, 179–206 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Stevenson, D. S. et al. Tropospheric ozone changes, radiative forcing and attribution to emissions in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Model Intercomparison Project (ACCMIP). Atmos. Chem. Phys. 13, 3063–3085 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Fang, Y., Mauzerall, D. L., Liu, J., Fiore, A. M. & Horowitz, L. W. Impacts of 21st century climate change on global air pollution-related premature mortality. Climatic Change 121, 239–253 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Bell, M. L. et al. Climate change, ambient ozone, and health in 50 US cities. Climatic Change 82, 61–76 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Tagaris, E. et al. Potential impact of climate change on air pollution-related human health effects. Environ. Sci. Technol. 43, 4979–4988 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Chang, H. H., Zhou, J. & Fuentes, M. Impact of climate change on ambient ozone level and mortality in Southeastern United States. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 7, 2866–2880 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Sheffield, P. E., Knowlton, K., Carr, J. L. & Kinney, P. L. Modeling of regional climate change effects on ground-level ozone and childhood asthma. Am. J. Prev. Med. 41, 251–257 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Fann, N. et al. The geographic distribution and economic value of climate change-related ozone health impacts in the United States in 2030. J. Air Waste Manag. Assoc. 65, 570–580 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Orru, H. et al. Impact of climate change on ozone-related mortality and morbidity in Europe. Eur. Respir. J. 41, 285–294 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    van Vuuren, D. P. et al. The representative concentration pathways: an overview. Climatic Change 109, 5–31 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Young, P. J. et al. Pre-industrial to end 21st century projections of tropospheric ozone from the Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Model Intercomparison Project (ACCMIP). Atmos. Chem. Phys. 13, 2063–2090 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Shindell, D. T. et al. Radiative forcing in the ACCMIP historical and future climate simulations. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 13, 2939–2974 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Schnell, J. L. et al. Effect of climate change on surface ozone over North America, Europe, and East Asia. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 3509–3518 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Allen, R. J., Landuyt, W. & Rumbold, T. An increase in aerosol burden and radiative effects in a warmer world. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 269–274 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Wilson, A., Rappold, A. G., Neas, L. M. & Reich, B. J. Modeling the effect of temperature on ozone-related mortality. Ann. Appl. Stat. 8, 1728–1749 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Ren, C., Williams, G. M. & Tong, S. Does particulate matter modify the association between temperature and cardiorespiratory diseases? Environ. Health Perspect. 114, 1690–1696 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    West, J. J. et al. Co-benefits of global greenhouse gas mitigation for future air quality and human health. Nat. Clim. Change 3, 885–889 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Smith, K. R. et al. in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (eds Field, C. B. et al.) 709–754 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Riahi, K. et al. RCP 8.5—A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions. Climatic Change 109, 33–57 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Fiore, A. M. et al. Global air quality and climate. Chem. Soc. Rev. 41, 6663–6683 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Hughes, B. B. et al. Projections of global health outcomes from 2005 to 2060 using the International Futures integrated forecasting model. Bull. World Health Organ. 89, 478–486 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Bond, T. C. et al. Historical emissions of black and organic carbon aerosol from energy-related combustion, 1850–2000. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 21, GB2018 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Schopp, W., Klimont, Z., Suutari, R. & Cofala, J. Uncertainty analysis of emissions estimates in the RAINS integrated assessment model. Environ. Sci. Policy 8, 601613 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Smith, S. J. et al. Anthropogenic sulfur dioxide emissions: 1850–2005. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 11, 1101–1116 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Granier, C. et al. Evolution of anthropogenic and biomass burning emissions of air pollutants at global and regional scales during the 1980–2010 period. Climatic Change 109, 163–190 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was funded by NIEHS grant no. 1 R21 ES022600-01, a fellowship from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, and by a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from The Graduate School (UNC—Chapel Hill). We thank K. Yeatts (Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC—Chapel Hill), C. Mathers (WHO), P. Speyer (IHME), and A. Henley (Davis Library Research & Instructional Services, UNC—Chapel Hill). The work of D.B. and P.C.-S. was funded by the US Dept. of Energy (BER), performed under the auspices of LLNL under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344, and used the supercomputing resources of NERSC under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231. R.M.D., I.A.M. and D.S.S. acknowledge ARCHER supercomputing resources and funding under the UK Natural Environment Research Council grant: NE/I008063/1. G.Z. acknowledges the NZ eScience Infrastructure, which is funded jointly by NeSI’s collaborator institutions and through the MBIE’s Research Infrastructure programme. G.A.F. has received funding from BEIS under the Hadley Centre Climate Programme contract (GA01101) and from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 641816 (CRESCENDO). D.T.S. and G.F. acknowledge the NASA High-End Computing Program through the NASA Center for Climate Simulation at Goddard Space Flight Center for computational resources.

Author information




J.J.W., J.-F.L., D.T.S. and R.A.S. conceived the study. All other co-authors conducted the model simulations. R.A.S. processed model output and estimated human mortality. R.A.S. and J.J.W. analysed results. R.A.S. and J.J.W. prepared the manuscript and all co-authors commented on it.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Jason West.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 816 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Silva, R., West, J., Lamarque, JF. et al. Future global mortality from changes in air pollution attributable to climate change. Nature Clim Change 7, 647–651 (2017).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing