Climate change will likely worsen ozone pollution in already heavily polluted areas, leading to increased ozone-related health burdens and deaths, especially among the elderly. China, which is the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter and has a rapidly aging population, has been making progress in reducing particle pollution in recent years, but ozone pollution has been getting worse.
A new study co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher estimates that projected changes in climate, emissions, population size, and population aging could nearly quadruple ozone-related deaths in China.
The study, published in PLOS Medicine, estimates the annual number of ozone-related deaths in China could nearly quadruple by the 2050s under the worst-case climate change scenario, with 78,560 more deaths each year than the current rate. However, in a best-case scenario of emission reduction, China’s annual ozone-related death rate could be 24 percent lower in the 2050s than today.
“Aggressive action to solve the climate crisis now can pay huge health dividends in the future,” says Dr. Patrick Kinney, Beverly A. Brown Professor for the Improvement of Urban Health at BUSPH and the study’s senior author.
The researchers used data from April 2013 through October 2015 on ambient ozone observations, population change projections, and baseline mortality rates in 104 cities across China, accounting for approximately 13 percent of the total population of the country. They then used a global chemistry-climate model and recently available ambient ozone monitoring data to estimate future changes in ozone-related deaths from 2013–2015 to 2053–2055 under different climate and population change scenarios.