An international study has estimated deaths from air pollution will rise by about 60,000 globally by 2030 because of climate change.
Published this week in Nature Climate Change, the study combined global climate models – including data from New Zealand – to examine how warmer temperatures will speed up the creation of air pollutants. The researchers also said areas expected to get drier might also have higher air pollution due to increased fires and windblown dust.
Niwa atmospheric scientist Dr Guang Zeng, a co-author on the study, helped develop the chemistry-climate model while at Cambridge University. She warned that New Zealand would not be immune to the changes projected to happen under climate change.
“Climate change is a global phenomenon which will lead to a drying and warming of some polluted regions, causing ozone and particulate matter to increase. While New Zealand’s remoteness means it is relatively unaffected by ozone air pollution, it does suffer from some urban particulate pollution.”
In addition to exacerbating air pollution-related death, climate change is expected to have other health impacts through changes in heat stress, access to clean water and food, severe storms and the spread of infectious diseases.
However, the study highlighted that mitigation efforts could reduce air pollution-related mortality. “Actions to mitigate climate change, such as reductions in long-lived greenhouse gas emissions, are likely to benefit human health by reducing the effect of climate change on air quality in many locations,” Dr Zeng said.
The study was covered by local and international media, including:
NZ Herald: Air pollution deaths to rise under climate change
The Conversation: Climate change set to increase air pollution deaths by hundreds of thousands by 2100
PhysOrg: Climate change expected to increase premature deaths from air pollution