By 2050, labor capacity losses due to heat stress will double globally, thanks to the continuously warming environment. Because of the increases in heat and humidity projected throughout the planet over the next few decades, workers will be forced to slow down, decreasing overall work productivity.
The report, published on Sunday, Feb. 24 by Nature Climate Change, suggests that those most affected by the radical heat stress increase will be outdoor workers such as firefighters, farmers and construction workers, with those working in already hot environments, such as bakers and factory workers, are also listed as those most likely to be impacted.
Nature Climate Change's article,first received on Aug. 8, 2012 and accepted on Jan. 15, 2013, was authored by John P. Dunne, Ronald J. Stouffer and Jasmin G. John, who are affiliated respectively with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Princeton University.
"A fundamental aspect of greenhouse-gas-induced warming is a global-scale increase in absolute humidity," says the report. "Under continued warming, this response has been shown to pose increasingly severe limitations on human activity in tropical and mid-latitudes during peak months of heat stress."
Using what the authors refer to as "wet bulb globe temperatures" as a measurement of heat stress, in collusion with Earth System Model (ESM2M) projections, the authors compared their "global climate historical reanalysis" with "industrial and military guidelines for an acclimated individual's occupational capacity to safely perform sustained labour under environmental heat stress (labour capacity)" to determine that, over the last few decades, environmental heat stress has lowered labor capacity to 90 percent in peak months.
"ESM2M projects labour capacity reduction to 80% in peak months by 2050," says the report.
By 2200, ESM2M projects that the same labor capacity will be reduced to 40 percent during peak months "with most tropical and mid-latitudes experiencing extreme climatological heat stress."
Unpredictable variants that may affect the environmental warming and heat stress are:
- Climate sensitivity
- Climate warming patterns
- CO2 emissions
- Future population distributions
- Technological and societal change
"Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and can also increase the risk of injuries," writes the NOAA. "Age, obesity, and medical conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure can also put workers at greater risk of heat stress. "
Co-author Dunne notes that as most studies on Global Warming focus on "mortality under either extreme weather events or theoretical physiological limits," he and his colleagues wanted to present a "climate warming in practical terms that people commonly experience already."
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