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The control of transboundary air pollution in Europe has been successful. Emissions of many key pollutants are decreasing and there are signs of improvements in damaged ecosystems. The strategies under development within the CAFE programme under the European Commission and the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), aim to take regional air pollution control a large step further, in particular with respect to small particles. In this paper we highlight the new strategies but look primarily at socioeconomic trends and climate change feedbacks that may have a significant influence on the outcome of the strategies and which so far have not been considered. In particular, we point out the influence on air quality of increased summer temperatures in Europe and of increasing emissions including international shipping, outside of Europe. Taken together the further emissions reductions in Europe and the increasing background pollution, slowly cause a greying of the Northern Hemisphere troposphere rather than the traditional picture of dominant emissions in Europe and North America (black) with much lower emission intensities elsewhere (white). A hemispheric approach to further combat air pollution will become necessary in Europe and elsewhere.
The ongoing program Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) is an initiative from the EU Commission to establish a coordinated effort to reach better air quality in the EU. The focus is on particulate matter as it has been shown to have large impact on human health. CAFE requested that WHO make a review of the latest findings on air pollutants and health to facilitate assessments of the different air pollutants and their health effects. The WHO review project on health aspects of air pollution in Europe confirmed that exposure to particulate matter (PM), despite the lower levels we face today, still poses a significant risk to human health. Using the recommended uniform risk coefficients for health impact assessment of PM, regardless of sources, premature mortality related to long-range transported anthropogenic particles has been estimated to be about 3500 deaths per year for the Swedish population, corresponding to a reduction in life expectancy of up to about seven months. The influence of local sources is more difficult to estimate due to large uncertainties when linking available risk coefficients to exposure data, but the estimates indicate about 1800 deaths brought forward each year with a life expectancy reduction of about 2–3 months. However, some sectors of the population are exposed to quite high locally induced concentrations and are likely to suffer excessive reductions in life expectancy. Since the literature increasingly supports assumptions that combustion related particles are associated with higher relative risks, further studies may shift the focus for abatement strategies. CAFE sets out to establish a general cost effective abatement strategy for atmospheric particles. Our results, based on studies of background exposure, show that long-range transported sulfate rich particles dominate the health effects of PM in Sweden. The same results would be found for the whole of Scandinavia and many countries influenced by transboundary air pollution. However, several health studies, including epidemiological studies with a finer spatial resolution, indicate that engine exhaust particles are more damaging to health than other particles. These contradictory findings must be understood and source specific risk estimates have to be established by expert bodies, otherwise it will not be possible to find the most cost effective abatement strategy for Europe. We are not happy with today's situation where every strategy to reduce PM concentrations is estimated to have the same impact per unit change in the mass concentration. Obviously there is a striking need to introduce more specific exposure variables and a higher geographical resolution in epidemiology as well as in health impact assessments.
The critical load concept is used to establish the deposition levels which ecosystems can tolerate without significant harmful effects. Here we summarize work within the Swedish research program Abatement Strategies for Transboundary Air Pollution (ASTA) assessing the critical load of N for boreal forests. Results from both field experiments in an area with low background N deposition in northern Sweden, and from a large-scale monitoring study, show that important vegetational changes start to take place when adding low N doses and that recovery of the vegetation after ceasing N input is a very slow process. The data presented indicate that changes in key ecosystem components occur even at a lower rate of N input than the present recommended empirical critical load for boreal forest understorey vegetation of 10–15 kg N ha−1 yr−1. Based on the data presented, we suggest that the critical load should be lowered to 6 kg N ha−1 yr−1.
Dynamic models complement existing time series of observations and static critical load calculations by simulating past and future development of chemistry in forest and lake ecosystems. They are used for dynamic assessment of the acidification and to produce target load functions, that describe what combinations of nitrogen and sulfur emission reductions are needed to achieve a chemical or biological criterion in a given target year. The Swedish approach has been to apply the dynamic acidification models MAGIC, to 133 lakes unaffected by agriculture and SAFE, to 645 productive forest sites. While the long-term goal is to protect 95% of the area, implementation of the Gothenburg protocol will protect approximately 75% of forest soils in the long term. After 2030, recovery will be very slow and involve only a limited geographical area. If there had been no emission reductions after 1980, 87% of the forest area would have unwanted soil status in the long term. In 1990, approximately 17% of all Swedish lakes unaffected by agriculture received an acidifying deposition above critical load. This fraction will decrease to 10% in 2010 after implementation of the Gothenburg protocol. The acidified lakes of Sweden will recover faster than the soils. According to the MAGIC model the median pre-industrial ANC of 107 µ= L−1 in acid sensitive lakes decreased to about 60 µ= L−1 at the peak of the acidification (1975–1990) and increases to 80 µ= L−1 by 2010. Further increases were small, only 2 µ= L−1 between 2010 and 2040. Protecting 95% of the lakes will require further emission reductions below the Gothenburg protocol levels. More than 7000 lakes are limed regularly in Sweden and it is unlikely that this practice can be discontinued in the near future without adverse effects on lake chemistry and biology.
Ground level ozone concentrations, in combination with the prevailing climate, at the estate Östads Säteri in southwestern Sweden were estimated to reduce the yield of wheat and potato ranging between 5% and 10%. Occasionally, in years with the highest ozone concentrations and/or climatic conditions favoring high rates of ozone uptake to the leaves, yield loss levels above 10% may occur. Based on simple extrapolation, these ozone-induced reductions of crop yields at Östads Säteri represent a potential total annual yield loss in Sweden in the range of 24.5 million Euro for wheat and 7.3 million Euro for potato, respectively. A simulation of forest growth at Östad Säteri predicted that prevailing mean ozone exposure during 1993–2003 had the potential to reduce forest growth by 2.2% and the economic return of forest production by 2.6%. Using this value for extrapolation to the national level, the potential annual economic loss for Sweden due to negative impacts of ozone on forest production would be in the range of 56 million Euro (2004 prices).
The relationship between emissions and deposition of air pollutants, both spatially and in time forms an important focus for science and for policy makers. In practice, this relationship may become nonlinear if the underlying processes change with time, or in space. Nonlinearities may also appear due to errors in emission or deposition data, and careful scrutiny of both data sources and their relationship provides a means of picking up such deficiencies. Nonlinearities in source receptor relationships for sulfur and nitrogen compounds in Europe have been identified in measurement data for the UK. In the case of sulfur, the dry deposition process has been shown to be strongly influenced by ambient concentrations of NH3, leading to substantial increases in deposition rate as SO2 concentrations decline and the ratio SO2/NH3 decreases. The field evidence extends to measurements over three different surfaces in three countries across Europe. A mechanistic understanding of the cause of this nonlinearity has been provided. Apparent nonlinearities also exist in the sulfur deposition field through the influence of shipping emissions. The effect is clear at west coast locations, where during a period in which land-based sulfur emissions declined by 50%, no significant decline in concentrations of SO42− in precipitation were observed. The sites affected are primarily the coastal regions of southwestern UK, where shipping sources contribute a substantial fraction of the deposited sulfur, but the effect is not detectable elsewhere. Full quantification of the spatially disaggregated emission and their changes in time will eliminate this apparent nonlinearity in the source—receptor data. For oxidized nitrogen emission and deposition in the UK, there is strong evidence of nonlinearity in the source—receptor relationship. The concentrations and deposition of NO3− in precipitation have declined little following a reduction in emissions of 45% during the period 1987 to 2001. The data imply a significant decrease in the average transport distance for oxidized nitrogen and most probably an increase in the average oxidation rate. However, the net effect of changes in aerosol chemistry due to changes in sulfur emissions and less competition for the main oxidants as a consequence of reductions in sulfur emission have not been separated. A quantitative explanation of the cause of this nonlinearity is lacking and the effects are therefore identified as an important uncertainty for the development of further protocols to control acidification, eutrophication and photochemical oxidants in Europe.
EUs programme Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) is presently revising the policy on air quality which will lead to the adoption of a thematic strategy on air pollution under the Sixth Environmental Action Programme by mid-2005. For the abatement of surface ozone it is becoming evident that processes outside European control will be crucial for meeting long-term aims and air quality guidelines in Europe in the future. Measurements and modelling results indicate that there is a strong link between climate change and surface ozone. A warmer and dryer European climate is very likely to lead to increased ozone concentrations. Furthermore, increased anthropogenic emissions in developing economies in Asia are likely to raise the hemispheric background level of ozone. A significant increase in the background concentration of ozone has been observed at several sites in Northern Europe although the underlying causes are not settled. The photochemical formation of tropospheric ozone from increased concentrations of methane and CO may also lead to a higher ozone level on a global scale. Gradually, these effects may outweigh the effect of the reduced European ozone precursor emissions. This calls for a global or hemispheric perspective in the revision of the European air quality policy for ozone.
A global three-dimensional Lagrangian chemistry-transport model STOCHEM is used to describe the European regional acid deposition and ozone air quality impacts along the Atlantic Ocean seaboard of Europe, from the SO2, NOx, VOCs and CO emissions from international shipping under conditions appropriate to the year 2000. Model-derived total sulfur deposition from international shipping reaches over 200 mg S m−2 yr−1 over the southwestern approaches to the British Isles and Brittany. The contribution from international shipping to surface ozone concentrations during the summertime, peaks at about 6 ppb over Ireland, Brittany and Portugal. Shipping emissions act as an external influence on acid deposition and ozone air quality within Europe and may require control actions in the future if strict deposition and air quality targets are to be met.