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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Scholars@Duke

Parsons

Luke Parsons

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Luke Parsons is a climate researcher and lecturer. He teaches about climate change and climate impacts and studies climate dynamics, drought, and climate change + deforestation + emissions impacts on the environment, human health, well-being, and the economy. In addition to his work as a researcher, Luke is also a Wilderness First Responder and former NOLS instructor who enjoys backpacking, climbing, and taking panoramic landscape photographs.

Shindell

Drew Todd Shindell

Nicholas Distinguished Professor of Earth Science

Drew Shindell is Nicholas Professor of Earth Science at Duke University. From 1995 to 2014 he was at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and taught at Columbia University. He earned his Bachelor's at UC Berkeley and PhD at Stony Brook University, both in Physics. He studies climate change, air quality, and links between science and policy. He has been an author on >250 peer-reviewed publications, received awards from Scientific American, NASA, the NSF and the EPA, and is a fellow of AGU and AAAS.

He has testified on climate issues before both houses of the US Congress (at the request of both parties), developed a climate change course with the American Museum of Natural History, and made numerous media appearances as part of his outreach efforts. He chaired the 2011 UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone, and was a Coordinating Lead Author on the 2013 Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC and on the 2018 IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C. He also chairs the Scientific Advisory Panel to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition of nations and organizations.


 


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