Isolating the climate change impacts on air-pollution-related-pathologies over central and southern Europe – a modelling approach on cases and costs
Air pollution has important implications for human health and associated external costs to society and is closely related to climate change. This contribution tries to assess the impacts of present (1996–2015) and future (2071–2100 under RCP8.5) air pollution on several cardiovascular and respiratory pathologies and estimate the difference in the costs associated with these health impacts on the European population. For this, air quality data from the regional chemistry–climate modelling system of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model coupled with Chemistry (WRF-Chem) are used, together with some epidemiological information from the European Commission. The methodology considered relies on the Economic Valuation of Air Pollution (EVA) exposure–response functions and economic valuations (Brandt et al., 2013a, b). Several hypotheses have been established, in order to strictly isolate the effects of climate change on air pollution and health: constant present-day emission levels and population density in the whole of Europe. In general, the number of cases for the pathologies considered will increase in the future (chronic bronchitis, heart failure, lung cancer, premature deaths), increasing the overall cost associated from EUR 173 billion per year to over EUR 204 billion per year at the end of the present century. Premature deaths are the most important problem in the target area in terms of costs (EUR 158 billion per year, increasing by 17 % in the future RCP8.5 2071–2100 projection) and cases (418 700 cases per year, increasing by 94 900 cases per year in the future). The most affected areas are European megacities, the Ruhr Valley and several cities in eastern Europe (e.g. Chişinău, Bucharest). For the RCP8.5 scenario, cases and costs will increase over southern and eastern Europe, while central and northern Europe could benefit from climate change variations (decreasing both cases and costs for the studied pathologies).