When we get to 2 degrees of global warming climate change may not be our only worry

COP 26 is now over. Ignoring all the hype, it looks like we are still on a trajectory of going to about 2 degrees of global warming. As far as I can ascertain this means that we are heading to around 600 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere in the next 50 years or so.

Putting aside the predictions of catastrophic climate change at 600 ppm, those of you who are familiar with indoor air quality studies will recognize that 600 ppm is the level at which CO2 begins to effect human cognitive performance (scores in cognitive tests have been found to degrade once the CO2 in a room reaches a level of 600 ppm). Similar work shows that humans begin to get drowsy once CO2 levels in a room reach 1000 ppm.

If we do reach a CO2 global atmospheric background level of 600 ppm, ambient CO2 levels in urban areas are likely to be around 650 ppm. Prolonged exposure to levels of over 1000 ppm may well be commonplace. We will no longer be able to just ‘pop outside to get some fresh air’.

In my children’s lifetime I imagine that humans will be facing some real challenges, but with reduced cognitive function and a dulled sense of alertness. We are poisoning both the planet and ourselves.

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