Growing infrastructure needs worldwide have created an unprecedented demand for concrete. Its production results in high GHG emissions, the primary focus of research and mitigation strategies in the sector. However, emissions of air pollutants and the economic burden of resultant health consequences are not yet known. Here, we show worldwide concrete production contributes approximately 7.8% of nitrogen oxide emissions, 4.8% of sulfur oxide emissions, 5.2% of particulate matter emissions smaller than 10 microns and 6.4% of particulate emissions smaller than 2.5 microns. Economic valuation of the damages from these and GHG emissions total ~75% of the cement and concrete industry current value. Commonly discussed GHG emissions mitigation strategies can halve these costs but, under certain scenarios, may increase local air pollution and associated health damages. These findings highlight potential synergies and trade-offs between GHG mitigation and improvements in local air quality, with implications for the political feasibility of different mitigation options.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $17.75 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
The data compiled and used to perform this work, as well as data used to produce the figures, can be found in the Supplementary Information. Raw data inputs may be procured through the referenced literature. Source data for Figs. 1–3 are included with the paper.
Code to reproduce the figures in the manuscript is available at https://github.com/sabbiemiller/Concrete-air-2020.
Monteiro, P. J. M., Miller, S. A. & Horvath, A. Towards sustainable concrete. Nat. Mater. 16, 698–699 (2017).
World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision: Key Findings and Advance Tables (UNPD, 2015).
Miller, S. A., Horvath, A. & Monteiro, P. J. M. Readily implementable techniques can cut annual CO2 emissions from the production of concrete by over 20%. Environ. Res. Lett. 11, 074029 (2016).
Davis, S. J. et al. Net-zero emissions energy systems. Science 360, eaas9793 (2018).
Lelieveld, J., Evans, J. S., Fnais, M., Giannadaki, D. & Pozzer, A. The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale. Nature 525, 367–371 (2015).
Oberschelp, C., Pfister, S., Raptis, C. E. & Hellweg, S. Global emission hotspots of coal power generation. Nat. Sustain. 2, 113–121 (2019).
Haines, A. et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: overview and implications for policy makers. Lancet 374, 2104–2114 (2009).
Cifuentes, L., Borja-Aburto, V. H., Gouveia, N., Thurston, G. & Davis, D. L. Hidden health benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation. Science 293, 1257–1259 (2001).
Birshan, M., Czigler, T., Periwal, S. & Schulze, P. The cement industry at a turning point: A path toward value creation. McKinsey & Company Our Insights https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/chemicals/our-insights/the-cement-industry-at-a-turning-point-a-path-toward-value-creation (2015).
Kelly, T. D. & van Oss, H. G. Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities: Cement Statistics (USGS, 2014).
Coady, D., Parry, I. W. H., Sears, L. & Shang, B. How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies? Working Paper No. 15/105 (IMF, 2015).
BP Energy Outlook 2019 Edition (BP Energy Economics, 2019).
Humbert, S. et al. Intake fraction for particulate matter: recommendations for life cycle impact assessment. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 4808–4816 (2011).
Gronlund, C. J., Humbert, S., Shaked, S., O’Neill, M. S. & Jolliet, O. Characterizing the burden of disease of particulate matter for life cycle impact assessment. Air Qual. Atmos. Health 8, 29–46 (2015).
Miller, S. A., John, V. M., Pacca, S. A. & Horvath, A. Carbon dioxide reduction potential in the global cement industry by 2050. Cem. Concr. Res. 114, 115–124 (2018).
Xi, F. et al. Substantial global carbon uptake by cement carbonation. Nat. Geosci. 9, 880–883 (2016).
Technology Roadmap: Low-Carbon Transition in the Cement Industry (IEA, 2018).
Hills, T., Leeson, D., Florin, N. & Fennell, P. Carbon capture in the cement industry: technologies, progress, and retrofitting. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50, 368–377 (2016).
Gomez, D. R. et al. in 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Vol 2 (eds Eggleston, S. et al.) Ch. 2 (IPCC, 2007).
Feng, H. & Zou, B. Satellite-based estimation of the aerosol forcing contribution to the global land surface temperature in the recent decade. Remote Sens. Environ. 232, 111299 (2019).
Myhre, G. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 8 (IPCC, 2013).
van Oss, H. G. 2012 Minerals Yearbook: Cement (USGS, 2015).
UN Comtrade Database: Cement (Portland, Aluminous, Slag or Hydraulic) (UN Comtrade, 2015).
Ready-Mixed Concrete Industry Statistics Year 2013 (ERMCO, 2014).
Global Cement Database on CO 2 and Energy Information (GNR, 2014).
Miller, S. A., Horvath, A. & Monteiro, P. J. M. Impacts of booming concrete production on water resources worldwide. Nat. Sustain. 1, 69–76 (2018).
AP 42 5th edn, Vol. I; Ch. 1 (USEPA, 1995).
Cai, H., Wang, M., Elgowainy, A. & Han, J. Updated Greenhouse Gas and Criteria Air Pollutant Emission Factors and Their Probability Distribution Functions for Electric Generating Units (USDOE OSTI, 2012).
Air Emissions Inventories, Vol. 2; Ch. 14 (USEPA, 2001).
Emission Factor Documentation for AP-42; Section 11.6 (USEPA, 1994).
AP 42 5th edn, Vol. I; Ch. 11 (USEPA, 2006).
Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse GasesTechnical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866 Technical Support Document (EPA, 2016).
Lippiatt, B. BEES 4.0: Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability Technical Manual and User Guide (NIST, 2007).
Carleton, T. et al. Valuing the Global Mortality Consequences of Climate Change Accounting for Adaptation Costs and Benefits Working Paper (Univ. Chicago, 2018).
S.A.M. thanks A. Horvath at the University of California Berkeley for editorial guidance at early stages of revision.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Mehdi Akbarian, Shaohui Zhang and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Miller, S.A., Moore, F.C. Climate and health damages from global concrete production. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0733-0