Socio-economic Impacts—Air Quality
In the North Sea region, poor air quality has serious implications for human health and the related societal costs are considerable. The state of air pollution is often used as a proxy for air quality. This chapter focuses on the two atmospheric pollutants of most significance to human health in Europe—particulate matter and ground-level ozone. These are also important ‘climate forcers’. In the North Sea area, the effects on air quality of emission changes since preindustrial times are stronger than the effects of climate change. According to model simulations, this is also the case for future air quality in the North Sea region, but substantial variation in model results implies considerable uncertainty. Short-term events such as heat waves can have substantial impacts on air quality and some regional climate models suggest that heat waves may become more frequent in the coming decades. If the reductions in air pollutant emissions expected through increasingly stringent policy measures are not achieved, any increase in the severity or frequency of heat waves may have severe consequences for air quality. Climate and air quality interact in several ways and mitigation optimised for a climate or air quality target in isolation could have synergistic or antagonistic effects.
KeywordsHeat Wave Regional Climate Model Marine Fuel Emission Control Area Intercontinental Transport
Air quality and climate interact in several ways. Air pollutants can affect climate both directly and indirectly through their influence on the radiative balance of the atmosphere. Primary particulate matter (primary PM, Fig. 16.1) affects climate directly, while pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), non-methane volatile organic compounds (nmVOC), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ammonia (NH3) although having a negligible direct radiative (‘greenhouse’) effect, have an important indirect climate effect by acting as precursors for components that are both harmful pollutants and act as ‘climate forcers’ (e.g. ozone and particulate matter). On the other hand, air quality is also sensitive to climate change itself, since climate change drives changes in the physical and chemical properties of the earth and atmosphere. Climate policies also imply energy efficiency and technical measures that change emissions of air pollutants. Equally, air quality mitigation measures will impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
The main chemical components addressed in this chapter are PM and ground level ozone (O3). These are generally recognised as the two pollutants that most significantly affect human health in Europe. The impacts of long-term and peak exposure to these pollutants range in severity from impairing the respiratory system to premature death. Particulate matter in the atmosphere originates from direct emissions (e.g. black and organic carbon, sea salt, dust, pollen) or is derived from chemical reactions involving precursor gases such as SO2, NOX, NH3, PAH and nmVOC. The particles of greatest human health concern are 10 µm in diameter or less (PM10). Of particular concern are those 2.5 µm or less (PM2.5) since these could pass from the lungs into the bloodstream. The size and sign of the particulate climate effect (i.e. the particulate-driven temperature change) varies according to particle size, composition, shape, and altitude, and the albedo of the underlying surface. Particles can also change precipitation patterns and surface albedo.
Ozone is a secondary pollutant and greenhouse gas formed by complex chemical reactions involving NOX, nmVOC, CO and methane (CH4). In addition to its impact on human health, high O3 levels may damage plants, affect agriculture and forest growth, and impact on CO2 uptake. Compared to O3 and PM, CH4 is a relatively long-lived and thus well-mixed greenhouse gas and one link with regional air quality is that short-lived air pollutants such as NOX, nmVOC, and CO may influence its chemical removal in the atmosphere. Changes in CH4 concentration in turn affect the atmospheric oxidation capacity and thereby the speed of chemical cycles and removal of pollutants. The rise in global CH4 levels over recent decades has contributed to rising background O3 concentrations in the northern hemisphere.
16.2 Current Status
Poor air quality in Europe is a serious human health issue and the related external costs (costs imposed by a producer or a consumer on another producer or consumer, outside of any market transaction between them) are considerable. In 2010, annual premature mortalities were over 400,000 in the EU area and the total external costs of the health impacts were estimated at EUR 330–940 billion (EU 2013). Similar estimates are reported in other studies (Watkiss et al. 2005; Anenberg et al. 2010; Amann et al. 2011; Brandt et al. 2013a; Fang et al. 2013; Silva et al. 2013). Particulate matter is the principal pollutant in terms of human health impacts.
16.2.1 Current Air Quality
16.2.2 Contribution from Emission Sectors and Regions
On a country-by-country basis, the ratio between the contribution to air pollution and deposition from domestic versus non-domestic (transboundary) sources varies substantially, depending on pollutant, local source strength, proximity to major non-domestic sources, and the geographical size of the individual countries (see recent reports by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme; EMEP1).
The negative contribution from NOX from several countries is caused by titration. The contribution from BIC (boundary and initial concentration) is calculated by perturbing lateral boundary (and initial) concentrations separately for NOX and nmVOC in the EMEP model.
These countries are characterised by a relatively large share of the emissions from agriculture and transportation (road and shipping). In the North Sea countries, shipping represents a significant share of the transport-related impacts. Studying the external costs from all international ship traffic in relation to the other sources, Brandt et al. (2013a) estimated that ship traffic accounted for 7 % of the total health effects in Europe due to air pollution in 2000. The corresponding value for Denmark, which is surrounded by heavy ship traffic, is 18 %. In Denmark the relative contribution from international ship traffic is comparable to the contributions from road traffic or the domestic use of wood stoves (Brandt et al. 2013b).
Particulate matter has a short residence time in the atmosphere, and as a result the intercontinental contribution to Europe is in general low. Calculating the ratio of the effect of other (than Europe) source regions to the effect of all source regions (including Europe), indicates that about 5 % of the PM surface concentrations in Europe can be attributed to intercontinental transport (HTAP 2010). However, the temporal variability is large, and the contribution can be significant for specific episodes.
16.3 Recent Change
The North Sea region is strongly influenced by emissions from shipping. Traditionally, emissions from shipping have been largely unregulated. However, recent policy decisions through the International Maritime Organization (IMO MARPOL Annex VI SOX Emission Control Area SECA requirements) and the EU (Sulphur Directive) affect ship emissions of both SOX and PM in the region. The former restricts the marine fuel sulphur content in SECAs to 1.0 % as of 1 July 2010 and 0.1 % from 2015 whereas the latter requires ships to use 0.1 % sulphur fuel in harbour areas from 1 January 2010. Prior to 2010 the maximum allowed sulphur content in SECAs was 1.5 % as opposed to the global fleet average of about 2.4 %. Emissions of SOX, NOX, VOC, CO and PM from international shipping, from 1990 to present, are listed in appendix B in EMEP (2013).
16.3.2 Air Pollution
Devasthale et al. (2006) used satellite measurements complemented by station data to investigate trends in air polluting particles and focused on the English Channel and the top three polluting harbours in Europe. For the period 1997–2002 they found increasing particle concentrations over harbours and coastal areas and decreasing concentrations over land areas. The different evolution is attributed to decreased emissions from land-based sources and increased emissions from shipping. Jonson et al. (2015) and Brandt et al. (2013a) modelled the effects of Baltic Sea and North Sea ship emissions in 2009 and 2011 (before and after the reductions in the sulphur content of marine fuels from 1.5 to 1 % from 1 July 2010). The calculations indicate clear improvements in PM concentration. These are however slightly offset by increasing NOX emissions, affecting nitrate particle formation. This is particularly the case in and around major North Sea ports owing to partial economic recovery after the financial crisis.
Studies report that despite a relatively large decline in anthropogenic emissions in Europe (Fig. 16.9) a corresponding reduction in O3 concentration is not observed (Jonson et al. 2006; EEA 2009, 2012; Tørseth et al. 2012; Wilson et al. 2012). Models also generally struggle to reproduce some of the observed trends (Solberg et al. 2005; Jonson et al. 2006; Colette et al. 2011; Wilson et al. 2012; Parrish et al. 2014). Likely reasons include increased background (hemispheric) O3 level—observational evidence suggests that the increase in background O3 roughly doubled from 1950 to 2000 and then levelled off (Logan et al. 2012; Derwent et al. 2013; Oltmans et al. 2013; Parrish et al. 2013). Other possibilities are limitations in the understanding of photochemistry, coarse model resolution, uncertainties related to anthropogenic emission estimates, variation in poorly constrained natural emissions, and the small number of measurement sites with long-term data sets.
16.3.3 Contribution from Climate Change
Climate change influences air pollution levels through a number of factors (see HTAP 2010), including changes in temperature, solar radiation, humidity, precipitation, atmospheric transport and biogenic emissions. Using a model to compare current conditions (1990–2009) against a baseline period (1961–1990) Orru et al. (2013) found the largest climate-driven increase in O3-related mortality and hospitalisations to have occurred in Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium where increases of up to 5 % are estimated. A decrease is estimated for the northernmost European countries. Hedegaard et al. (2012) compared the 1990s with the 1890s and found climate-driven decreases in surface O3 in the North Sea region. However, the decrease is not statistically significant over the region as a whole.
Using an ensemble of global models, Silva et al. (2013) found the average number of premature annual deaths attributable to past (1850–2000) climate change in Europe to be 954 for O3 (respiratory) and 11,900 for PM2.5. But the magnitude and even the sign of the values varies between models. In a global study with one model, Fang et al. (2013) found a climate-driven contribution to cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality associated with industrial PM2.5 since 1860 of up to 14 % over Europe. Ozone was responsible for a small contribution. The calculation does not include the climate-driven effect on emissions of biogenic hydrocarbons.
Recent heat waves have been linked to climate change (e.g. Stott et al. 2004). Whether these anomalies are exceptional or a signal of changes in climate is still under debate. Summer 2003 was one of the hottest in the history of Western Europe, with surface temperature exceeding the average surface temperature reported for 1901–1995 by 2.4 °C. In fact, this summer was likely to have been warmer than any other back to 1500.
Fischer et al. (2004) estimated that almost half of the excess deaths in the Netherlands during the 2003 heat wave were due to increased air pollution (O3 and PM10). Stedman (2004) estimated that the same air pollutants were responsible for 21–38 % of excess deaths in the UK. Doherty et al. (2009) found the overall number of deaths attributable to O3 in England and Wales to be slightly greater than that attributable to heat for the 2003, 2005 and 2006 summers. Several studies have described the high pollution levels observed in 2003 (Vautard et al. 2005; Solberg et al. 2008; Tressol et al. 2008).
The high temperatures during the 2003 heat wave influenced summer O3 because of its link with high solar radiation, stagnation of the air masses and thermal decomposition of peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN). Availability of solar radiation favours photolysis yielding radical formation with subsequent involvement in O3 production. Stagnation of air masses allows the accumulation of pollutants in the planetary boundary layer (PBL) and in the residual layer during the night. Increased temperatures and solar radiation favoured biogenic emissions of isoprene with a potential for enhanced O3 chemistry in the PBL. High temperature and a spring to summer precipitation deficit reduced dry deposition of O3. The high temperatures and exceptional drought led to extensive forest fires on the Iberian Peninsula which contributed to the peak in ground level O3 observed in western central Europe in August (Solberg et al. 2008; Tressol et al. 2008).
16.4 Future Impacts
Future air quality will be affected both by changes in air pollutant emissions and by changes in climate. A large span in emission scenarios and degree of detail in climate simulations are used in different studies. As a result, the studies referred to in the following sections are not directly comparable.
16.4.1 Emission Scenarios
Emissions of air pollutants have significantly reduced in recent decades (see Fig. 16.9). Even though economic activity in Europe is expected to increase, air pollutant emissions from all land-based sectors and regions in Europe are still expected to decline following current legislation. For example, emissions from the transport sector are expected to decrease owing to the penetration of vehicles with stricter emissions standards (Euro 5 and Euro 6), and the expected transition to renewable energy in Europe should drive a decline in emissions from the energy sector. After five years of negotiation, a revised Gothenburg Protocol was finalised in May 2012. The revised protocol specifies emission reduction commitments from base 2005 to 2020. It has also been extended to cover PM2.5. Most states decided only to accept emission reduction obligations for 2020 that are even less ambitious than—or at best largely in line with—business-as-usual, that is, reductions expected to be achieved anyway solely by implementing existing legislation.
Overall, EU Member States’ commitments to the revised protocol mean that from 2005 to 2020 they shall jointly cut their emissions by 59 % (SO2), 42 % (NOX), 6 % (NH3), 28 % (VOCs) and 22 % (PM2.5). According to the IMO MARPOL regulations the maximum sulphur content allowed in marine fuels will be reduced to 0.1 % from 2015 in SECAs (Sulphur Emission Control Areas). Both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are accepted as SECAs. Further measures may also be implemented for NOX in these seas. This may impose a shift from extensive use of heavy fuel oil to marine distillates, or a switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG), or using heavy fuel oil in combination with scrubber technology.
In sea areas outside SECAs, sulphur emissions have continued to rise and these emissions also affect the North Sea area. From 2020, the sulphur content in marine fuels outside SECAs should be reduced to 0.5 % globally, but depending on the outcome of a review to be concluded in 2018 as to the availability of the required fuel oil, this date could be deferred to 2025. However, the EU Sulphur Directive obliges ship owners to use 0.5 % fuel in non-SECA EU sea areas from 1 January 2020 regardless of the outcome of the IMO review.
To date, there are no NOX Emission Control Areas (NECAs) in Europe. Hammingh et al. (2012) evaluated the potential impact of establishing a North Sea NECA. This would require new ships to emit 75 % less NOX, from 2016 onward. A NECA in the North Sea would reduce total premature deaths due to air pollution in the North Sea countries by nearly 1 %, by 2030. This value would approximately double when all ships met the stringent nitrogen standards, a situation expected after 2040. Health benefits would exceed the costs to international shipping on the North Sea by a factor of two.
16.4.2 Impacts on Air Quality
188.8.131.52 Impacts from Emission Changes
The total health-related external costs in Europe due to the total air pollution levels from all emission sources in the northern hemisphere are calculated to be EUR 803 billion year−1 for 2000 decreasing to EUR 537 billion year−1 in 2020 (Brandt et al. 2013a). The decrease is due to the general emission reductions in Europe provided that the revised Gothenburg Protocol is implemented and given the regulation of international ship traffic by introducing SECAs in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. For Denmark the external costs are estimated to be EUR 4.54 billion year−1 for 2000, decreasing to EUR 2.53 billion year−1 in 2020.
However, the improvements come at a cost. Full implementation of the additional measures would increase costs for air pollution control in Europe in 2020 from EUR2005 110 billion year−1 to EUR2005 192 billion year−1, i.e. from 0.66 % to 1.15 % of the GDP envisaged for 2020. At the same time, some of the measures achieve little environmental improvement. Experience shows that a cost-effectiveness analysis can identify portfolios that realise most of the potential improvements at a fraction of the costs of the total portfolio.
184.108.40.206 Impacts from Climate Change
Climate impacts on air pollution are summarised by HTAP (2010). Future changes in climate are expected to increase local and regional O3 production and reduce O3 in downwind receptor regions. Factors contributing to O3 increases near emission regions include increased O3 production due to higher water vapour leading to more abundant hydrogen oxide radicals (HOX) which leads to increased O3 production at high NOX concentrations. Increased global average temperature increases photochemistry rates and decreases net formation of reservoir species for NOX, leaving more NOX available over source regions. This promotes local O3 production. In a warmer climate natural emissions of VOC and NOX (biogenic, lightning) are expected to increase. Such increases will depend on uncertain changes in soil moisture, cloud cover, sunlight, and biogenic responses to a more CO2-rich atmosphere.
Although there are many factors affecting PM levels, changes in cloud amount and precipitation are the major parameters as wet removal is a major sink for PM. Despite several pathways by which climate change may influence air quality, most model simulations show air pollutant emissions to be the main factor driving change in future air quality, rather than climate or long-range transport (Andersson and Engardt 2010; HTAP 2010; Katragkou et al. 2011; Langner et al. 2012a, b; Coleman et al. 2013; Colette et al. 2013). Hedegaard et al. (2013) found emission changes to be the main driver for PM changes but that climate change is equally important for O3 in many North Sea countries.
Orru et al. (2013) compared O3-related mortality and hospitalisation due to climate change for a baseline period (1961–1990) and the future (2021–2050). Increases in O3-related cases are projected to be greatest in Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal (10–14 %), whereas in most Nordic and Baltic countries there is a projected decrease in O3-related mortality of the same magnitude. Overall there is an increase of up to 13.7 % in O3-related mortality in Europe, which corresponds to 0.2 % in all-cause total mortality and respiratory hospitalisations.
The sensitivity of simulated surface O3 concentration to changes in climate between 2000–2009 and 2040–2049 differs by a factor of two between the models used in a study by Langner et al. (2012a), but the general pattern of change with an increase in southern Europe is similar across different models. Changes in isoprene emissions from deciduous forests vary substantially across models explaining some of the different climate response. In northern Europe, the ensemble mean for mean and daily maximum O3 concentration both decrease whereas there are no reductions for the higher percentiles indicating that climate impacts on O3 could be especially important in connection with extreme summer events such as experienced in summer 2003 (see Sect. 16.2.2). Some regional climate modelling studies suggest that conditions such as those of summer 2003 could become more frequent in coming decades (Beniston 2004; Schär et al. 2004).
Colette et al. (2013) and Hedegaard et al. (2013) found that climate change in the North Sea region would constitute a slight benefit for PM2.5 concentrations. Other studies show both small increases and decreases of PM within the region (Nyiri et al. 2010; Manders et al. 2012). The spread of precipitation projections in regional climate models constitutes a major challenge in reducing the uncertainty of the climate impact on PM (Manders et al. 2012). Nevertheless, some conclusions can be drawn from the different climate model projections for the North Sea region (Jacob et al. 2014). Winter precipitation is expected to increase over the coming century, while summer precipitation is expected to decrease over much of the region. Heavy precipitation events are expected to occur more often in all seasons.
Climate and air quality interact in several ways. Emitted air pollutants could directly impact climate or could act as precursors for components acting both as harmful pollutants and climate forcers. On the other hand, air quality is sensitive to climate change since it perturbs the physical and chemical properties of the environment. Climate policies imply energy efficiency and technical measures that change emissions of air pollutants. Reciprocally, air quality mitigation measures affect greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigation optimised for a climate or air quality target in isolation could have synergistic or antagonistic effects.
In the North Sea area, the effects on air quality of emission changes since pre-industrial times are stronger than the effects of climate change over this period. Despite several pathways by which climate change may influence air quality, model simulations show air pollutant emissions to be the main factor driving change in future air quality in the North Sea region, rather than climate. The variation in climate simulations in different studies results in significant uncertainty in the impacts of climate change on air quality. This is particularly the case for PM where the spread of precipitation projections in regional climate models constitutes a major challenge in narrowing the uncertainty.
Climate impacts on air quality are substantial in connection with heat waves, such as that of summer 2003. Some regional climate models suggest that heat waves could become more frequent in the coming decades. If the anticipated reductions in emissions of air pollutants are not achieved, extreme weather events of this type may cause severe problems in the future.
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