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No one likes working in uncomfortable conditions; it makes us tired, sluggish and unable to concentrate. According to a new report from America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, increases in humidity caused by global warming are reducing labor productivity all over the world—and the issue is only likely to get worse.
The report, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, states that humidity is already reducing people’s working capacity by 10% during peak summer months around the world. What is even more disturbing is that this figure is expected to grow to 20% by 2050. The main cause? Increasing levels of CO2.
The research team have said that if these levels aren’t bought under control, by 2200 safe labor would be impossible during the summer. This would include the entire US east of the Rockies. That would not aid employment figures.
“So far little has been done to estimate the impact of climate change on labor productivity,” said David Peetz, professor of employment relations at Griffith University. “The impact on productivity shown here, for people not experiencing the increasingly expensive benefits of air conditioning, is going to be quite stark, especially for people in warmer or mid-latitude climates.”
“It all points to the fact that it’s much cheaper to deal with it now than to wait until some date in the future.”
The report’s main basis for its projections was a combined analysis of humidity and climate change projections with industrial and military guidelines for people’s ability to work under heat stress. That meant that factors such as climate sensitivity, climate warming patterns, future population distributions and technological and societal change were not all included in the final analysis.
Professor John Freebairn, an expert in environmental economics at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Economics, said the paper provided “provides a detailed assessment of just one of the ways in which higher temperatures and humidity across the globe would bring additional costs to society.”
“It is part of an extended exercise to assess the costs of climate change, and builds more details into the rough early estimates reported by Stern (2006), Garnaut (2008) and many others,” he said.