The Lancet warned of 295 billion hours lost to heat exposure in 2020. In poorer countries, the average loss of earnings is four to eight percent of national gross internal product (GDP).
AFP — A punishing mix of heat and humidity that makes outdoor labour difficult and dangerous is causing around 677 billion lost working hours a year around the world, according to a new study Thursday that warns climate change is making it worse.
Researchers in the United States have estimated that the current cost is $2.1 trillion annually. They claim that the negative effects of cold temperatures on heavy construction and agriculture work has been underestimated.
The new figures are being released amid increasing attention to the severe health consequences of climate change. These include projections of future harm from extreme events like heatwaves, but also consequences that already appear in a warming planet.
The study was published in the journal. Environmental Research Letters, looked at data on humid heat – particularly dangerous because the body is less able to cool down by sweating.
Researchers estimated the number and impact of unsafe levels on workers over the 20 year period to 2020.
Researchers used laboratory-based research that was published last year to find that productivity declines at lower temperatures and higher humidity levels than previously thought.
They discovered that between 2001-2020, the loss of 677 billion hours per year due to excessive heat and humidity was associated with heavy outdoor labour.
It was found that almost three quarters of the world’s working-age population live in areas where there is about 100 hours of heat-associated work per person per annum.
“If outdoor workers are losing productivity at these lower temperature and humidity levels, then labour losses in the tropics could be as high as 500 to 600 hours per person per year, which is over twice as high as previous estimates,” said lead researcher Luke Parsons, of Duke University.
According to the research, India is losing around 259 Billion hours of work each year due to the effects from humid heat on labor. China lost 72 billion hours and Bangladesh lost 32 billion hours.
Warming ‘magnifies impacts’
The study found that heat-related labour loss has increased by at least nine per cent over the last four decades as global temperature have risen.
According to the authors, climate change is responsible for an additional 25 million hours per year lost in India over the past 20 years compared with the previous 20 years and an additional four billion hours per year in China during the same period.
Parsons said other hot and humid regions such as the southeastern United States could also be experiencing “significant” labour losses as well.
“These results imply that we don’t have to wait for 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming to experience impacts of climate change on labour and the economy,” he said.
“The warming we’ve already experienced may be associated with large-scale background labour losses. Additional future warming magnifies these impacts.”
The Lancet’s annual Countdown on Health and Humanity report last year warned that overall some 295 billion hours of potential work were lost due to extreme heat exposure in 2020, with the average potential earnings lost in poorer countries equivalent to between four and eight percent of national gross domestic product (GDP).
Research published in the journal last year Nature Climate ChangeClimate change was responsible for a reported 100,000 deaths from heat related causes each year.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warned last year that global heat is likely to exceed the Paris Agreement threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, most likely within a decade.
The seven most recent years since 2015’s Paris deal were the hottest ever recorded.
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