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Study finds that under business-as-usual scenario, average global air quality to worsen; China, North India and Middle East are the hot spots

Population-Weighted Multi Pollutant Index (PW-MPI) values for different regions. Source: Pozzer et al.

Under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, a rapidly increasing number of people worldwide will experience reduced air quality by 2050, according to a new simulation of the atmosphere done by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. China, North India and the Middle East are expected to be especially affected by a drastic decrease in air quality.

Following this BAU scenario, the researchers projected that air quality for the global average citizen in 2050 would be almost comparable to that for the average citizen in East Asia in the year 2005—an outcome which underscores the need to pursue emission reductions, according to the authors.

Even though air quality will deteriorate further in North America and Europe, in 2050 it will be significantly better than that experienced by the global average citizen. Remarkably, the global PW-MPI in 2050 is projected to be similar to that in the Middle East in the year 2005. It should be emphasized that this result is strongly influenced by the high population density in Asia (i.e. poor air quality affecting a large number of people). In fact, East and South Asia both have the highest MPI values and the highest population densities.

—Pozzer et al.

The team used a population-weighted multi pollutant index (PW-MPI), suited for global model output, with the atmospheric chemistry general circulation model EMAC to estimate the impact of anthropogenic emission changes on global and regional air quality in recent and future years (2005, 2010, 2025 and 2050).

The emission scenario assumes that population and economic growth largely determine energy and food consumption and consequent pollution sources with the current technologies (“business as usual”). The BAU scenario assumes no further implementing legislation to prevent additional climate change and growing air pollution, other than what is in place for the base year 2005.

The authors said their study is the first to include all five major air pollutants known to negatively impact human health: nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers which are regarded as particularly harmful.

The open-access study, published in the current issue of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, a journal of the European Geosciences Union, finds that East Asia will be exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Northern India and the Arabian Gulf region, on the other hand, will suffer a marked increase in ozone levels. This is primarily due to population density and the expected increase in industrial production and transport in these areas.

Air pollution in Europe and North America would also increase, but—due to the effect of mitigation policies that have been in place for more than two decades—to a much lesser extent than in Asia.

Subsequent to these results the researchers want to broaden the analyses. In the near future they want to calculate how many people would actually be affected by the harmful effects of deteriorating air quality.


  • A. Pozzer, P. Zimmermann, U.M. Doering, J. van Aardenne, H. Tost, F. Dentener, G. Janssens-Maenhout & J. Lelieveld (2012) Effects of business-as-usual anthropogenic emissions on air quality Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 12, 8617-8676, doi: 10.5194/acpd-12-8617-2012



I said many time to start commercializing hydrogen technologies now. It apply to everything that pollute the air like cars, trucks, trains, ships, aircrafts, helicopters and electric power-plants. With that no more air pollution.


Electrification is better than hydrogen; you can do more with it, and there are more options for generating electricity.


Not quite. One can't fly air transport planes on lithium ion batteries.

Bob Wallace

One swallow doth not the summer make.

Hydrogen isn't a terribly good fuel for flight. That's one place where we are likely to need something like biofuels.

OTOH, there's an interesting idea of powering airplanes by laser or microwave stations located on the ground. Hard to say how things will play out long term. I'll bet on electricity over hydrogen....


This is about air quality, not Co2.

So start with the worst culprits, 2 stroke engines, coal fired power stations, badly maintained 4 strokes without catalysts etc.

Hybridising and electrifying may well help, as well as reducing fuel consumption.

Dealing with diesel buses, either by replacing the engines or by using natural gas (as they do in India) would probably help.

This is a mostly solved problem - all you have to do is follow the west and pick the solutions that suit your situation best.

And enforce them.

Also, get rid of kerosene lamps and wood burning stoves (replacing with Led lighting and more efficient stoves).

Reducing CO2 while increasing energy use is a harder problem altogether.


Electrically powered air ships could transport hundreds with comfort for very long distances at a reasonable speed, leaving fossil and bio liquid fuels for high speed jets. Small training type planes could be electrified by 2020 or shortly thereafter.


Reducing CO2 while increasing energy is easy, at least for electric power:  use fission.

Kit P

Air quality is very good in the good old US of A and getting better every year. Since BAU would result in every new ICE, factories, and power plant replacing old equipment, I see not reason for air quality in the good old US of A to deteriorate.

Since we solved the problem with affordable pollution controls, why would we resort to expensive solutions like hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and BEV? Furthermore, I am not going to buy a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and BEV because they just do not work very well.

The problem with the model is that BAU for billions is using dried animal dung as an energy source. Grinding poverty is the problem not air quality. The disconnect is that only people who use fossil energy for transportation and have electricity in their home homes are worried about air quality. First you want a motor scooter and hot plate; then you want an SUV and air conditioning.

Once you have air conditioning, you do not even know what your air quality is.


To think that we are doing better because air quality is a few points better than 30 years ago is very misleading.

Hundreds of man made chemicals and GHG predispose unborn babies to be subjected to much higher level of obesity, up to 10 times the number of diabetes and 40% to 60% more cancer cases latter on in their life.

Eating more fruit and vegetables will not reduce the high number of fat cells acquired before birth. The absorption of more and more environmental chemicals and GHG, specially in our early years, make matter much worse. Many plastic bottles contain and emit harmful chemicals. Nicotine, fructose, and many more commonly used chemicals make us fat and predisposed to many sickness.

We will soon have to start cleaning up the environment will live in, otherwise, we will all become obese early on and become good candidates for diabetes and cancers.

Bob Wallace

Want to fix air pollution and CO2?

1. Make all personal vehicles BEVs or PHEVs. Use biofuels and NG where electricity can't yet do the job.

2. Close all coal plants and replace with efficiency, load shifting, renewables and storage. Use some NG during the transition, if necessary.

3. Continue to install renewables and storage while closing NG plants.

4. Fund massive rollout of small solar for those areas off the grid who now burn kerosene. Those people can easily pay for a simple solar system with kero savings but there needs to be capital infused to get it going.

There will be some bits and pieces left to address, but do this much and we can all breath easier. Both in terms of personal lung activity and climate change.

Roger Pham

Wanna fix air pollution in China, India, and other job-outsourcing destination?

The US, EU, and all other countries with high environmental protection to assess tariffs on all re-imported products from job-outsourced countries with poor air qualiy, said tariffs will be proportional to the differential in air quality and other environmental indices, in comparison to the host nation.

The poor air quality in China and India is the direct result of the rush to build massive numbers of coal plants for super-cheap energy and very lax environmental protection in order to made products at the cheapest cost possible, at the expense of the environment, human labor exploitation, human safety and health, and human dignity of the workers. It is a repeat of the USA's in the pre 1930's days before the Great Depression.

Roger Pham

I must hasten to add that the above measure will restore some job losses to the USA, EU and other developed countries. This will restore the global economy and avert the impending economic collapse. But, most important of all, this will protect the Earth's environment and our future generations. This will further protect human rights and human dignity.

You see, the CO2 and the Mercury and carcinogens dumped into the environment from industries in China, India, etc. will eventually find their ways back here via the ocean and the atmosphere, and is already poisoning all of us. This is what global leadership is all about.


Can any of you read a graph?

North & South America, Southern Africa and Europe have increasingly CLEAN AIR by 2050, by the graph that was offered in ths purported "Study report". It shows US Air Quality improving, but we know that US AIR is now the best in the World, and near to being CLEAN already. Only metro Houston and Los Angeles Basin don't attain Clean Air Compliance status already!

You eco-nitwits ignored the new CARB Air Quality mandates that require not just cleaner toxic emissions, but PRISTINE Air Quality in their LEV III, SULEV II Air Regulation just authorized and reported on the very same dated web page, of GCC.

FYI, That regulation just catches up to what largely already exists, as CARB admnitted that some 25% of California cars, the newer ones, already meet the ZEV regulation. Every vehicle on the continent will meet it long before 2050, and probably before 2025, as older vehicles are scrapped.

That some eco nitwit doomster wants to espouse the typical dreck that the World civilization is dying, drowning in pollution, so send more money. Nonsense!! That seems to be the standard cry of ignorant and apparently stupid Greens, seeking money and power. And you accept this drivel.

Green Car Congress has chronicled the hard and largely successful fight that you have supported, to clean up our Air and Waters, but some of you don't want to accept Victory.


Roger Pham

Good point, Mr. ExDemo.

Unfortunately, the price for this "Victory" is the increase in cost of living and cost of producing electricity such that most manufacturing jobs are outsourced to destinations that have the least cost of producing energy and manufacturing. The Dems have mandated such a high level of civility with staggering level of regulations such as labor laws, minimum wage laws, privacy laws, human rights laws, etc...and the impending and bankrupting health care laws of 2700 pages that have been sending manufacturers elsewhere.

It's not that such a high level of "civility" is bad, actually very good job creation for lawyers, paralegals, government bureaucracy, inspectors, compliance officers, etc. at a time when many jobs are replaced by computers and the Internet and Amazon, like the postal workers. It's just that when hardly anything is made here any more, and when we have to import almost every manufactured goods AND petroleum while exports are stalling due to economic collapses around the world, and export of grains will dwindle this year due to the huge drought, the guvmint just doesn't have enough tax base to continue such over regulation...

So, tariffs as I've outlined above will be needed in order to level the playing field so that our manufacturers and our workers will not be handicapped by our high standard of "civility" and environtalism. These will be great job-creation engine in the future days of further job loss due to increasing productivity gain and artificial intelligence.

In the mean time, will need more renewable energy adaptation because we will need to create more jobs for our people and these jobs will require local labors that can't be outsourced.

Kit P

“Only metro Houston and Los Angeles Basin don't attain Clean Air Compliance status already!”

Only because we raised the standard. Even then not being in the 'good' range only occurs few times a year. Furthermore, the health affects of 'moderate' air quality border on insignificant.

I remember smoggy California in the early 70s. I was stationed on a ship in Long Beach and it surprised me one day to find myself in sunny California when the weather blew the smog out and visibility was more than 5 miles.

“WHY??? ”

It is because they do not check their facts.

US air quality is good.

It is like Roger, he can not find the first case of mercury poising associated with the power industry.

“the price for this "Victory" is the increase in cost of living and cost of producing electricity ”

Not so much, electricity is a very cheap commodity, The cost of new pollution controls on the the old coal plants that produce out power is less than taking the family to a fast food restaurant once a month. A second reason the cost of making electricity with coal has increased slightly in the last 5 years is that China stopped exporting slave labor coal because they could not meet their own needs. That allowed American coal miners to compete even with all the safety rules.

I work in the nuclear industry and we are heavily regulated yet we still produce low cost electricity. A reactor design that meets the NRC scrutiny has a commercial advantages in the world.

Producing energy is inherently dangerous. What we demonstrate everyday in the US is that it can be done safely and with little environmental impact. We also see that billions of people who get their energy from dried manure have a very unhealthy environment.

The problem with regulations is when they are to further an agenda not solve a problem. I am a big advocate of renewable energy to create jobs when the net result is producing power. However many advocates are more interested in closing the coal, gas, and nuke plants that an industrial society depends on to maintain a clean environment. You can not run a sewage treatment plant on renewable energy.


A few posters sound like politician, when they refer to their accomplishments to get re-elected. Most everybody know that it is very often very far from the truth. Canadians and Americans are still in the top five as the world worse per capita polluters.

Albertans can be very proud of polluting almost three times more than the world's worse but their politicians and Oil Industries (with their wide eyes shut) maintain that they are doing very well.

However, since most of Alberta's pollution is blown into USA's mid-west, it may not help with current corn crop.

Roger Pham

Agree with you, Kit P, that the US Power industry deserves applaud for being able to produce low-cost electricity in spite of environmental regulations. It shows that with ingenuity and dedication, many seemingly impossible things are made possible.

With regard to closing down coal, gas and nuke plants, no one is advocating that, unless gradually replaced by renewable energy over many decades. For example, the goal can be simply to keep existing coal, gas and nuke plants so that investors into these can get their money's worth out of them, but build no more new fossil-fuel plants and using renewable energy collectors instead. This can be a win-win situation for everyone and avoid political backlash from the powerful coal, gas, oil and nuclear lobbies.

All the fossil-fuel players have to do to remain in the game is simply to switch their future power plant investments on renewable-energy collectors and facilities. The same people making the same money but using different technologies, that's all. When sufficient production capacity for solar and wind collectors are in place to replace new fossil-fuel power plants, then the guvmint will simply declare that all new power plants must emit zero CO2. Nobody will lose any money and we all will win big and so will our children and grand children.

Kit P

“With regard to closing down coal, gas and nuke plants, no one is advocating that, unless gradually replaced by renewable energy over many decades.”

Except for President Obama, head of the EPA and Interior, Senate Majority leader, left and east coast governors and senators. The only thing the powerful wind and solar lobbies have demonstrated is the ability to get money to not make electricity.

It does not matter how many wind and solar collects you build, the best that can be achieved is running fossil plants 5% less when the power is not needed.


Kit P you own Coal stocks and just like the smell and pollution from the chimneys?

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