To quantify changes in air pollution over Europe at the 2050 horizon, we designed a comprehensive modelling system that captures the external factors considered to be most relevant, and that relies on up-to-date and consistent sets of air pollution and climate policy scenarios. Global and regional climate as well as global chemistry simulations are based on the recent representative concentration pathways (RCP) produced for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) whereas regional air quality modelling is based on the updated emissions scenarios produced in the framework of the Global Energy Assessment. We explored two diverse scenarios: a reference scenario where climate policies are absent and a mitigation scenario which limits global temperature rise to within 2 °C by the end of this century.
This first assessment of projected air quality and climate at the regional scale based on CMIP5 (5th Coupled Model Intercomparison Project) climate simulations is in line with the existing literature using CMIP3. The discrepancy between air quality simulations obtained with a climate model or with meteorological reanalyses is pointed out. Sensitivity simulations show that the main factor driving future air quality projections is air pollutant emissions, rather than climate change or intercontinental transport of pollution. Whereas the well documented "climate penalty" that weights upon ozone (increase of ozone pollution with global warming) over Europe is confirmed, other features appear less robust compared to the literature, such as the impact of climate on PM2.5. The quantitative disentangling of external factors shows that, while several published studies focused on the climate penalty bearing upon ozone, the contribution of the global ozone burden is somewhat overlooked in the literature.