Emissions of anthropogenic aerosols are expected to change drastically over the coming decades, with potentially significant climate implications. Using the most recent generation of harmonized emission scenarios, the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) as input to a global chemistry transport and radiative transfer model, we provide estimates of the projected future global and regional burdens and radiative forcing of anthropogenic aerosols under three contrasting pathways for air pollution levels: SSP1-1.9, SSP2-4.5 and SSP3-7.0. We find that the broader range of future air pollution emission trajectories spanned by the SSPs compared to previous scenarios translates into total aerosol forcing estimates in 2100 relative to 1750 ranging from −0.04 in SSP1-1.9 to −0.51 W m−2 in SSP3-7.0. Compared to our 1750–2015 estimate of −0.55 W m−2, this shows that, depending on the success of air pollution policies and socioeconomic development over the coming decades, aerosol radiative forcing may weaken by nearly 95 % or remain close to the preindustrial to present-day level. In all three scenarios there is a positive forcing in 2100 relative to 2015, from 0.51 in SSP1-1.9 to 0.04 W m−2 in SSP3-7.0. Results also demonstrate significant differences across regions and scenarios, especially in South Asia and Africa. While rapid weakening of the negative aerosol forcing following effective air quality policies will unmask more of the greenhouse-gas-induced global warming, slow progress on mitigating air pollution will significantly enhance the atmospheric aerosol levels and risk to human health in these regions. In either case, the resulting impacts on regional and global climate can be significant.