News Release

Phasing out air pollution emissions

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Avoidable Air Pollution Mortality from Fossil Fuel Use (1 of 2)

image: Avoidable air pollution mortality from fossil fuel use (dark red indicates high avoidable mortality rates). view more 

Credit: Image courtesy of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

A modeling study suggests that rapidly phasing out air pollution emissions may prevent millions of deaths, increase rainfall in drought-prone regions, and limit the rate of global warming. Significant excess mortality rates related to cardiovascular and respiratory disease are attributed to air pollution. J. Lelieveld and colleagues used an atmospheric chemistry and general circulation model to assess how air pollution from anthropogenic and fossil fuel emissions affects climate, precipitation, and public health. According to the model, fossil fuel use accounted for approximately 65% of excess mortality rates from air pollution worldwide and 70% of climate cooling from aerosols, which also affects precipitation patterns. A reduction in aerosols could increase rainfall in parts of Africa, China, India, and Central America, which would support food and water security in those regions, especially in areas of rapid population growth. The authors found that removing fossil fuel-related and all anthropogenic emissions could prevent approximately 3.6 million and 5.5 million avoidable deaths each year, respectively. Moreover, the authors suggest, rapid emissions reduction is needed to prevent high rises in temperature. Although removing pollution emissions is unlikely to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, reaching the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement by midcentury is feasible if emissions are rapidly phased out, according to the authors.


Article #18-19989: "Effects of fossil fuel and total anthropogenic emission removal on public health and climate," by J. Lelieveld et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: J. Lelieveld, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, GERMANY; tel: +49-61313054040; email:

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