Ground-level ozone in the 21st century: future trends, impacts and policy implications

06 October 2008

The Royal Society has conducted a study on ground-level ozone in the 21st century. The study, chaired by Professor David Fowler CBE FRS, was undertaken by leading experts from across Europe. Tropospheric ozone is a global air pollution problem and an important greenhouse gas. In large areas of the industrialised and developing world, it remains one of the most pervasive of the global air pollutants, with impacts on human health, food production, and the environment. Ozone concentrations have continued to increase in many parts of the world despite the efforts of many countries to reduce the pollutants that lead to ozone formation.

The report provides a review of why control efforts in many parts of the world have failed to reduce ozone and its impacts, and, using state of the art scenario and modelling analysis, evaluates how important ozone is likely to be for human health, climate and the environment by the end of the 21st century.

The analysis concludes that existing emission controls will not be sufficient to reduce ozone concentrations to levels acceptable for human health and environmental protection and calls for renewed global action to address ozone and its precursors. It highlights the importance of ozone as a global air pollutant and as a greenhouse gas, and finds that in some parts of the world ozone may have as important an impact on food security as climate change.

The report calls for a new framework for action to:

  • Facilitate concerted global action to implement current emission controls;
  • Address background and peak ozone concentrations at global, regional, and national scales;
  • Include emissions from poorly regulated sources including international shipping, aviation, and biomass burning; and
  • Support the integration of climate change and ozone reduction policies at the international, regional, and national scale.

After the study was published, Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society wrote to the Convention on Biological Diversity proposing that the impact ground-level ozone on biological diversity be considered at their disucssions.