Global labor loss due to humid heat exposure underestimated for outdoor workers

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2022-01-01

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Abstract

Humid heat impacts a large portion of the world's population that works outdoors. Previous studies have quantified humid heat impacts on labor productivity by relying on exposure response functions that are based on uncontrolled experiments under a limited range of heat and humidity. Here we use the latest empirical model, based on a wider range of temperatures and humidity, for studying the impact of humid heat and recent climate change on labor productivity. We show that globally, humid heat may currently be associated with over 650 billion hours of annual lost labor (148 million full time equivalent jobs lost), 400 billion hours more than previous estimates. These differences in labor loss estimates are comparable to losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, annual heat-induced labor productivity losses are estimated at 2.1 trillion in 2017 PPP$, and in several countries are equivalent to more than 10% of gross domestic product. Over the last four decades, global heat-related labor losses increased by at least 9% (>60 billion hours annually using the new empirical model) highlighting that relatively small changes in climate (<0.5 C) can have large impacts on global labor and the economy.

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10.1088/1748-9326/ac3dae

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Parsons, LA, YJ Masuda, T Kroeger, D Shindell, NH Wolff and JT Spector (2022). Global labor loss due to humid heat exposure underestimated for outdoor workers. Environmental Research Letters, 17(1). pp. 014050–014050. 10.1088/1748-9326/ac3dae Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/26187.

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