Research Scientist Div. of Earth & Climate Sciences Duke: Impacts of heat exposure and climate change on global labor productivity
As the globe warms, people are more frequently exposed to hot and humid environments, particularly if they have to work outside. Here I will describe how global heat exposure for outdoor workers is estimated, how this heat exposure is already impacting outdoor workers, and how warming will decrease outdoor workers' ability to adapt to climate change. Using meteorological observations (reanalysis data), I will show that in recent years, global potential labor productivity losses associated with heat exposure have been quite large; these labor impacts have been similar in magnitude to losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These heat-related potential labor losses are associated with similarly large global economic productivity impacts. Furthermore, using the latest climate model projections (model projections used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report, or IPCC AR6), I show that these labor productivity impacts are expected to grow increasingly quickly with each degree of global warming. Even small increases in global mean temperatures have large-scale impacts on labor, highlighting the need to limit warming and the importance of finding alternative adaptation mechanisms to keep workers safe.