Finally—An Explanation for Al Gore

The climatistas—or at least Joe Romm of the Center for American Progress—are all abuzz about a brand new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health that finds elevated levels of CO2 make us stupider. Finally—an explanation for Al Gore! Anyone who exhales as much hot air as he does is certain to damage his own brain cells.

The study is actually focused on establishing the superiority of “sustainable” or “green” buildings over conventional buildings, and tested the hypothesis with a sample size of 24 people. Yes you read that right: Twenty-four. That’s some humdinger of a sample size. (And the testing period was a mere six days.) After artificially raising the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and CO2, the subjects were given cognitive tests in the afternoon. Guess what? The subjects in the “green” buildings with better indoor air quality levels had higher cognitive test scores!

From the abstract:

Results: On average, cognitive scores were 61% higher on the Green building day and 101% higher on the two Green+ building days than on the Conventional building day (p<0.0001). VOCs and CO2 were independently associated with cognitive scores.

This, Joe Romm says, constitutes “a landmark finding.”

Of course, you have to get into the study proper to find out that the CO2 level in the test was boosted to 945 parts per million (ppm), which compares to 400 ppm in the atmosphere right now.

But you can see where this is going: Although this study wasn’t about climate change per se, Romm is looking ahead several hundred years and drawing the conclusion that if we don’t give up our Addiction to Fossil FuelsTM, we’re all going to get stupid. Well I suppose we should give Romm credit for getting a head start. As for people stuck working or living in non-green buildings, I suspect they have enough working brain cells left to open the window.

This isn’t the first such study. A 2012 study reported similar results, but note again the artificially boosted CO2 concentrations:

Twenty-two participants were exposed to CO2 at 600, 1,000, and 2,500 ppm in an office-like chamber, in six groups. Each group was exposed to these conditions in three 2.5-hr sessions, all on 1 day, with exposure order balanced across groups. At 600 ppm, CO2 came from outdoor air and participants’ respiration. Higher concentrations were achieved by injecting ultrapure CO2. Ventilation rate and temperature were constant. Under each condition, participants completed a computer-based test of decision-making performance as well as questionnaires on health symptoms and perceived air quality. Participants and the person administering the decision-making test were blinded to CO2 level. Data were analyzed with analysis of variance models.

Results: Relative to 600 ppm, at 1,000 ppm CO2, moderate and statistically significant decrements occurred in six of nine scales of decision-making performance. At 2,500 ppm, large and statistically significant reductions occurred in seven scales of decision-making performance (raw score ratios, 0.06–0.56), but performance on the focused activity scale increased.

Notice that with this study they needed to get up to absurdly high levels of CO2 for large effects. Some poorly ventilated buildings may indeed reach such levels, but that is not germane at all to climate change. Ironically, some sealed-up “energy-efficient” buildings might turn out to be worse than conventional builings, as the conclusion to the abstract of this study suggests:

Conclusions: Direct adverse effects of CO2 on human performance may be economically important and may limit energy-saving reductions in outdoor air ventilation per person in buildings. Confirmation of these findings is needed. (Emphasis added.)

I’m sure there’s more grant money to be had for “confirmation” studies. So yes, by all means break out a pack of process, cancer-causing Green Weenies.