A new study out of the Harvard School of Public Health reveals that there is a direct correlation between carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and human cognition. Researchers in the study found that, on average, a typical participant’s cognitive scores dropped 21 percent with a 400 parts per million increase in CO2. Nine cognitive functions were scored in a double-blind test for the impact of increased CO2 levels. The researchers explain, “The largest effects were seen for Crisis Response, Information Usage, and Strategy, all of which are indicators of higher level cognitive function and decision-making.” According to Think Progress article below, this new research is consistent with dozens of recent studies that find low to moderate levels of CO2 have a negative impact on productivity, learning, and test scores. Conversely, lowering carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere results in tremendous cognition improvements. Find out what you can do as a health provider to limit CO2 emissions and increase brain function by joining Climate for Health.
By Joe Romm I October 26, 2015
In a landmark public health finding, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that carbon dioxide (CO2) has a direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision-making. These impacts have been observed at CO2 levels that most Americans — and their children — are routinely exposed to today inside classrooms, offices, homes, planes, and cars.
Carbon dioxide levels are inevitably higher indoors than the baseline set by the outdoor air used for ventilation, a baseline that is rising at an accelerating rate thanks to human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. So this seminal research has equally great importance for climate policy, providing an entirely new public health impetus for keeping global CO2 levels as low as possible.
In a series of articles, I will examine the implications for public health both today (indoors) as well as in the future (indoors and out) due to rising CO2 levels. This series is the result of a year-long investigation for Climate Progress and my new Oxford University Press book coming out next week, “Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know.” This investigative report is built on dozens of studies and literature reviews as well as exclusive interviews with many of the world’s leading experts in public health and indoor air quality, including authors of both studies.
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