Societal risks increase as Earth warms, and increase further for emissions trajectories accepting relatively high levels of near-term emissions while assuming future negative emissions will compensate, even if they lead to identical warming as trajectories with reduced near-term emissions1. Accelerating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reductions, including as a substitute for negative emissions, hence reduces long-term risks but requires dramatic near-term societal transformations2. A major barrier to emissions reductions is the difficulty of reconciling immediate, localized costs with global, long-term benefits3,4. However, 2 °C trajectories not relying on negative emissions or 1.5 °C trajectories require elimination of most fossil-fuel-related emissions. This generally reduces co-emissions that cause ambient air pollution, resulting in near-term, localized health benefits. We therefore examine the human health benefits of increasing 21st-century CO2 reductions by 180 GtC, an amount that would shift a ‘standard’ 2 °C scenario to 1.5 °C or could achieve 2 °C without negative emissions. The decreased air pollution leads to 153 ± 43 million fewer premature deaths worldwide, with ~40% occurring during the next 40 years, and minimal climate disbenefits. More than a million premature deaths would be prevented in many metropolitan areas in Asia and Africa, and >200,000 in individual urban areas on every inhabited continent except Australia.
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The authors thank G. Russell for help with implementing the constituent moment method, NASA GISS for support and the NASA High-End Computing Program through the NASA Center for Climate Simulation at GSFC for computational resources.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Shindell, D., Faluvegi, G., Seltzer, K. et al. Quantified, localized health benefits of accelerated carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Nature Clim Change 8, 291–295 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0108-y
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