Fossil fuel combustion is driving indoor CO2 toward levels harmful to human cognition

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Kristopher Karnauskas, Shelly Miller, Anna Schapiro


Human activities are elevating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to levels unprecedented in human history. The majority of anticipated impacts of anthropogenic CO2 emissions are mediated by climate warming. Recent experimental studies in the fields of indoor air quality and cognitive psychology and neuroscience, however, have revealed significant direct effects of indoor CO2 levels on cognitive function. Here we shed light on this connection, and estimate the impact of continued fossil fuel emissions on human cognition. We conclude that indoor CO2 levels may indeed reach levels harmful to cognition by the end of this century, and the best way to prevent this hidden consequence of climate change is to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Finally, we offer recommendations for a broad, interdisciplinary approach to improving such understanding and prediction.



Climate, Cognitive Neuroscience, Life Sciences, Neuroscience and Neurobiology, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


carbon dioxide, climate warming, cognition, fossil fuel emission, indoor air quality


Published: 2019-12-03 11:13


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International