Will the atmosphere become more and more “boring”?

You must have had this experience, and staying in a crowded room for a long time can be frustrating. Higher indoor carbon dioxide concentrations may be one of the possible causes of this phenomenon, and some researchers speculate that an overall increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations may also increase indoor carbon dioxide levels, which in turn can adversely affect human cognitive abilities.

The rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have become a trend that cannot be ignored. On December 3, 2019, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued the WMO Interim Statement on the State of the Global Climate, which states that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reached a record 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continue to rise in 2019. By 2020, the latest statistics show that Australian wildfires emit 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Rising carbon dioxide concentrations will not only exacerbate climate change, but also suggest that it could affect human cognitive abilities.

Increase in global CO2 concentrations increases indoor CO2 baselines

Researchers have long believed that very high levels of carbon dioxide can cause damage to the brain. “Previously, we thought that if the carbon dioxide levels in our environment were too high, people would go crazy, and even 2 plus 2 would not even count out. By the same token, high levels of carbon dioxide can affect people on Earth, says Kanoskas, a professor of marine science at the University of Colorado. For nearly two centuries, the unbridled use of fossil fuels has pushed the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution to 410 ppm today.

For the planet as a whole, pollution trapped heat in the atmosphere and contributed to climate change. But locally, the rise in overall CO2 concentrations raises the baseline for indoor CO2 levels, which, after all, are unlikely to reduce indoor CO2 concentrations below the global average through ventilation.

In fact, many indoor carbon dioxide concentrations are much higher than atmospheric levels because ventilation systems are not perfect. In addition, in offices, hospitals, schools and other crowded places, a large number of people exhaled carbon dioxide. As Kanoskas says, each of us is a small carbon dioxide maker. “Imagine a conference room with 20 middle-aged people breathing in this little room. In this case, the CO2 content can easily exceed 1000 ppm. “

The results of the study on the effects of carbon dioxide concentration sit cognition are not consistent.

In a 2016 study, Danish scientists raised indoor carbon dioxide concentrations to 3,000 ppm, more than seven times the current outdoor co2 concentration. The experiment found that 25 subjects were not cognitively impaired or had health problems. It was only when scientists injected the gas into other trace chemicals and organic compounds released by the human body that the subjects began to feel unwell and told them they felt “headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, and difficulty thinking clearly.”

However, some studies have shown less optimistic results. Scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center measured the effects of carbon dioxide on 24 astronauts. They found that when carbon dioxide concentrations reached 1200 ppm, the subjects’ decision-making ability was reduced. However, the participants’ cognitive abilities did not appear to have deteriorated with increased CO2 concentrations, and the intensity of the effects of CO2 concentrations on cognitive skills varied from person to person.

In September 2019, a number of scientists in the field reviewed all 10 papers on the subject since 2012. They found that the evidence for the effects of carbon dioxide levels on cognitive ability was vague, but they noted that “a lot of inconsistent evidence” showed that people performed worse on particularly challenging issues at moderate co2 concentrations. For example, when the co2 concentration reaches 1200 ppm, the pilot’s performance on the flight simulator begins to get worse. In other words, there is evidence that carbon dioxide concentrations can only damage the most complex and challenging perceptions. But we don’t know the reason yet.

In response, Mr Kanoskas said many aspects of the problem remained to be explored. For example, does carbon dioxide make other pollutants that cause brain damage worse? In addition, no one has looked into the effects of indoor CO2 concentrations on children, the elderly, or people with health problems. Similarly, the current study only exposed people to high concentrations of carbon dioxide for a few hours, and did not know what effect soldering exposure would be for longer, such as a few days.

According to Gail, a researcher at Portland State University, modern humans are only 300,000 years old as a species, but for most of our evolution, the carbon dioxide in the environment has been much lower than today’s carbon dioxide concentrations. Is it possible that human cognitive abilities have declined overall?

In any case, a large-scale experiment is being carried out quietly, and people are the subject sons. But there is no denying that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing year by year. Instead of recording your cognitive abilities now, maybe 20 years from now, you’ll lose these clear-headed moments.

Source: Global Science

Writing by Karnauskas

Compilation: Qin Daran