Climate and health damages from global concrete production

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1: Contributions to GHG emissions and DALYs.
Fig. 2: External costs of concrete.
Fig. 3: Effects of GHG mitigation strategies on economic climate and health damages.

Data availability

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 availability

Code to reproduce the figures in the manuscript is available at https://github.com/sabbiemiller/Concrete-air-2020.

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Acknowledgements

S.A.M. thanks A. Horvath at the University of California Berkeley for editorial guidance at early stages of revision.

Author information

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Authors

Contributions

S.A.M. developed the methodological approach. S.A.M. and F.C.M. collected the data and evaluated the results. S.A.M. and F.C.M. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sabbie A. Miller.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

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.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods, Figs. 1–11 and references.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Table

Supplementary Data sheets 1–9.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Percent emissions data by source.

Source Data Fig. 2

Damages, fraction from health damage, and fraction from energy-based emissions.

Source Data Fig. 3

Mitigation effects data.

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Miller, S.A., Moore, F.C. Climate and health damages from global concrete production. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 439–443 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0733-0

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