Research reveals yet another loss we can anticipate at the hands of climate change: global productivity. Heat stress in lower income countries has already shortened work days, which could result in a net loss of $2 trillion across all global economies by the year 2030. The sad irony is that the countries contributing the least to global warming will end up hurting the most.
A recent study published in Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health is one of six detailing the economic devastation coming our way on the heels of rising temperatures. Bloomberg reports that Southeast Asian countries’ work hours have been slashed 15 to 20 percent because of extreme heat, a figure which could double in the next 30 years or so. Tord Kjellstrom, director at the New Zealand-based Health and Environment International Trust, explains, “With heat stress, you cannot keep up the same intensity of work, and we’ll see reduced speed of work and more rest in labor-intensive industries.”
First world countries, who contribute far more to our dire climate situation, can afford to adapt to the productivity challenges. For instance, factories can invest in alternative means of cooling their machinery and bigger companies can afford to shift around workers’ schedules. Lower income countries will be the first to experience the growing economic burden, due to low-skill, low-paying, and labor intensive jobs being affected more severely by heat stress.
Up to 43 countries, including China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, could take an economic hit by 2030. Anthony Capon, a professor at the UN University, says it best when he explains, “As it is, high income countries have more capacity to insulate their people from health impacts of climate change. People in the poorer countries are the most effected [sic].”