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Climate change impacts on human health over Europe through its effect on air quality

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      Abstract

      This review examines the current literature on the effects of future emissions and climate change on particulate matter (PM) and O3 air quality and on the consequent health impacts, with a focus on Europe. There is considerable literature on the effects of climate change on O3 but fewer studies on the effects of climate change on PM concentrations. Under the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment report (AR5) Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), background O3 entering Europe is expected to decrease under most scenarios due to higher water vapour concentrations in a warmer climate. However, under the extreme pathway RCP8.5 higher (more than double) methane (CH4) abundances lead to increases in background O3 that offset the O3 decrease due to climate change especially for the 2100 period. Regionally, in polluted areas with high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx), elevated surface temperatures and humidities yield increases in surface O3 – termed the O3 climate penalty – especially in southern Europe. The O3 response is larger for metrics that represent the higher end of the O3 distribution, such as daily maximum O3. Future changes in PM concentrations due to climate change are much less certain, although several recent studies also suggest a PM climate penalty due to high temperatures and humidity and reduced precipitation in northern mid-latitude land regions in 2100.A larger number of studies have examined both future climate and emissions changes under the RCP scenarios. Under these pathways the impact of emission changes on air quality out to the 2050s will be larger than that due to climate change, because of large reductions in emissions of O3 and PM pollutant precursor emissions and the more limited climate change response itself. Climate change will also affect climate extreme events such as heatwaves. Air pollution episodes are associated with stagnation events and sometimes heat waves. Air quality during the 2003 heatwave over Europe has been examined in numerous studies and mechanisms for enhancing O3 have been identified.There are few studies on health effects associated with climate change impacts alone on air quality, but these report higher O3-related health burdens in polluted populated regions and greater PM2.5 health burdens in these emission regions. Studies that examine the combined impacts of climate change and anthropogenic emissions change under the RCP scenarios report reductions in global and European premature O3-respiratory related and PM mortalities arising from the large decreases in precursor emissions. Under RCP 8.5 the large increase in CH4 leads to global and European excess O3-respiratory related mortalities in 2100. For future health effects, besides uncertainty in future O3 and particularly PM concentrations, there is also uncertainty in risk estimates such as effect modification by temperature on pollutant-response relationships and potential future adaptation that would alter exposure risk.Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article (10.1186/s12940-017-0325-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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      Most cited references 74

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      Robust Responses of the Hydrological Cycle to Global Warming

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        The role of increasing temperature variability in European summer heatwaves.

        Instrumental observations and reconstructions of global and hemispheric temperature evolution reveal a pronounced warming during the past approximately 150 years. One expression of this warming is the observed increase in the occurrence of heatwaves. Conceptually this increase is understood as a shift of the statistical distribution towards warmer temperatures, while changes in the width of the distribution are often considered small. Here we show that this framework fails to explain the record-breaking central European summer temperatures in 2003, although it is consistent with observations from previous years. We find that an event like that of summer 2003 is statistically extremely unlikely, even when the observed warming is taken into account. We propose that a regime with an increased variability of temperatures (in addition to increases in mean temperature) may be able to account for summer 2003. To test this proposal, we simulate possible future European climate with a regional climate model in a scenario with increased atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations, and find that temperature variability increases by up to 100%, with maximum changes in central and eastern Europe.
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          Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015

          Summary Background The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2015 provides an up-to-date synthesis of the evidence for risk factor exposure and the attributable burden of disease. By providing national and subnational assessments spanning the past 25 years, this study can inform debates on the importance of addressing risks in context. Methods We used the comparative risk assessment framework developed for previous iterations of the Global Burden of Disease Study to estimate attributable deaths, disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), and trends in exposure by age group, sex, year, and geography for 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks from 1990 to 2015. This study included 388 risk-outcome pairs that met World Cancer Research Fund-defined criteria for convincing or probable evidence. We extracted relative risk and exposure estimates from randomised controlled trials, cohorts, pooled cohorts, household surveys, census data, satellite data, and other sources. We used statistical models to pool data, adjust for bias, and incorporate covariates. We developed a metric that allows comparisons of exposure across risk factors—the summary exposure value. Using the counterfactual scenario of theoretical minimum risk level, we estimated the portion of deaths and DALYs that could be attributed to a given risk. We decomposed trends in attributable burden into contributions from population growth, population age structure, risk exposure, and risk-deleted cause-specific DALY rates. We characterised risk exposure in relation to a Socio-demographic Index (SDI). Findings Between 1990 and 2015, global exposure to unsafe sanitation, household air pollution, childhood underweight, childhood stunting, and smoking each decreased by more than 25%. Global exposure for several occupational risks, high body-mass index (BMI), and drug use increased by more than 25% over the same period. All risks jointly evaluated in 2015 accounted for 57·8% (95% CI 56·6–58·8) of global deaths and 41·2% (39·8–42·8) of DALYs. In 2015, the ten largest contributors to global DALYs among Level 3 risks were high systolic blood pressure (211·8 million [192·7 million to 231·1 million] global DALYs), smoking (148·6 million [134·2 million to 163·1 million]), high fasting plasma glucose (143·1 million [125·1 million to 163·5 million]), high BMI (120·1 million [83·8 million to 158·4 million]), childhood undernutrition (113·3 million [103·9 million to 123·4 million]), ambient particulate matter (103·1 million [90·8 million to 115·1 million]), high total cholesterol (88·7 million [74·6 million to 105·7 million]), household air pollution (85·6 million [66·7 million to 106·1 million]), alcohol use (85·0 million [77·2 million to 93·0 million]), and diets high in sodium (83·0 million [49·3 million to 127·5 million]). From 1990 to 2015, attributable DALYs declined for micronutrient deficiencies, childhood undernutrition, unsafe sanitation and water, and household air pollution; reductions in risk-deleted DALY rates rather than reductions in exposure drove these declines. Rising exposure contributed to notable increases in attributable DALYs from high BMI, high fasting plasma glucose, occupational carcinogens, and drug use. Environmental risks and childhood undernutrition declined steadily with SDI; low physical activity, high BMI, and high fasting plasma glucose increased with SDI. In 119 countries, metabolic risks, such as high BMI and fasting plasma glucose, contributed the most attributable DALYs in 2015. Regionally, smoking still ranked among the leading five risk factors for attributable DALYs in 109 countries; childhood underweight and unsafe sex remained primary drivers of early death and disability in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Interpretation Declines in some key environmental risks have contributed to declines in critical infectious diseases. Some risks appear to be invariant to SDI. Increasing risks, including high BMI, high fasting plasma glucose, drug use, and some occupational exposures, contribute to rising burden from some conditions, but also provide opportunities for intervention. Some highly preventable risks, such as smoking, remain major causes of attributable DALYs, even as exposure is declining. Public policy makers need to pay attention to the risks that are increasingly major contributors to global burden. Funding Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7988, GRID grid.4305.2, School of GeoSciences, , University of Edinburgh, ; Alexander Crum Brown Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3FF UK
            [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7988, GRID grid.4305.2, School of Chemistry, , University of Edinburgh, ; David Brewster Road, Edinburgh, Scotland EH9 3FJ UK
            [3 ]ISNI 0000000405133830, GRID grid.17100.37, Met Office Hadley Centre, ; FitzRoy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB UK
            Contributors
            ruth.doherty@ed.ac.uk
            m.heal@ed.ac.uk
            fiona.oconnor@metoffice.gov.uk
            Journal
            Environ Health
            Environ Health
            Environmental Health
            BioMed Central (London )
            1476-069X
            5 December 2017
            5 December 2017
            2017
            : 16
            Issue : Suppl 1 Issue sponsor : Publication of this supplement has not been supported by sponsorship. Information about the source of funding for publication charges can be found in the individual articles. The articles have undergone the journal's standard peer review process for supplements. The Supplement Editor declares that they have no competing interests. Dr Sari Kovats, Department of Social and Environmental Research in the Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and LWEC fellow, organized this project and supplement.
            29219103
            5773909
            325
            10.1186/s12940-017-0325-2
            © The Author(s). 2017

            Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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            © The Author(s) 2017

            Public health

            human health, climate change and air pollution, ozone, particulate matter

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