Increased labor losses and decreased adaptation potential in a warmer world.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


Working in hot and potentially humid conditions creates health and well-being risks that will increase as the planet warms. It has been proposed that workers could adapt to increasing temperatures by moving labor from midday to cooler hours. Here, we use reanalysis data to show that in the current climate approximately 30% of global heavy labor losses in the workday could be recovered by moving labor from the hottest hours of the day. However, we show that this particular workshift adaptation potential is lost at a rate of about 2% per degree of global warming as early morning heat exposure rises to unsafe levels for continuous work, with worker productivity losses accelerating under higher warming levels. These findings emphasize the importance of finding alternative adaptation mechanisms to keep workers safe, as well as the importance of limiting global warming.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Parsons, Luke A, Drew Shindell, Michelle Tigchelaar, Yuqiang Zhang and June T Spector (2021). Increased labor losses and decreased adaptation potential in a warmer world. Nature communications, 12(1). p. 7286. 10.1038/s41467-021-27328-y Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Luke Parsons


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.


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.


Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.