Climate change likely to make us more stupid, study finds

Rising levels of carbon dioxide could affect concentration and decision-making of global workforce

Adam Forrest
Sunday 09 December 2018 15:40 GMT
Atmospheric CO2 reached record high earlier this year
Atmospheric CO2 reached record high earlier this year

Rising carbon dioxide emissions could cause a decline in the brainpower of workers around the world, according to new research.

A new study by academics at University College London (UCL) found that higher amounts of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere could affect our memory, concentration and decision-making abilities.

Raised CO2 in workplaces lacking proper ventilation is known to make employees more sluggish and less able to successfully complete tasks.

And climate change is likely to make intellectual impairment a far more widespread problem in the decades ahead, according to the researchers.

The UCL team said evidence indicated that “human cognitive performance declines with increasing CO2 levels”.

They added: “Given the likelihood of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration by the end of the 21st century, direct impacts of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on human cognitive performance may be unavoidable.”

Publishing their findings in Building Service Engineering, the researchers at UCL’s Energy Institute said attempts to minimise the impact was likely to change the way ventilation systems were engineered in buildings and transport systems.

The team made clear that research on raised CO2 and human cognitive performance was still in its infancy, but said the “global nature” of the potential problem meant more studies were needed.

Earlier this year, a study by Yale School of Public Health found that air pollution caused a drop in intelligence levels.

Although the conclusions were based on nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide tests in China, researchers made clear the connection between air pollution and cognitive capabilities had global implications.

“Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,” said Yale scientist Xi Chen.

In May 2018, the average monthly level of CO2 in the atmosphere reached its highest level in recorded history, exceeding 410 parts per million (ppm) for the first time.

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