Productivity Loss due to Workplace Heat Stress: an Issue for North America, too

In an article appearing in Our World, a publication of the United Nations University, author Tord Kjellstrom argues that economists need to consider the impact of the physiological limits of people exposed to ambient heat when they work.

His article reviews the literature to date on this issue, and contends that climate change is resulting in huge financial losses because of reduced labour productivity: estimated in 2012 as approximately US$2 trillion globally by 2030. High temperatures are already having an impact in tropical and sub-tropical countries, as well as the southern U.S. and Europe, and Australia.

How relevant is this to North America? In 2014, as part of the Risky Business project, the American Climate Prospectus included a chapter on labour productivity, which projected that heat-related losses of labour productivity in 2050 and 2090 in the United States would be the largest actual economic cost of climate change – amounting to approximately 0.2 percent of GDP in 2050. And in October 2014, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “By 2050, many US cities may experience more frequent extreme heat days. For example, New York and Milwaukee may have 3 times their current average number of days hotter than 32°C (90°F)…The adverse health aspects related to climate change may include heat-related disorders, such as heat stress and economic consequences of reduced work capacity”. The article continues to list many other adverse health outcomes and the implications for physicians. Wor

LINKS:

“Productivity Losses Ignored in Economic Analysis of Climate Change” in Our World (September 23, 2014) at: http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/productivity-losses-ignored-in-economic-analysis-of-climate-change

American Climate Prospectus: Economic Risks in the United States (June, updated August 2014) at: http://rhg.com/reports/climate-prospectus

“Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) at: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1909928

For more, see the Hothaps website at: http://www.climatechip.org/. Hothaps = High Occupational Temperature: Health and Productivity Suppression, an international research program which studies “the effects of heat exposure on working people (including gender aspects and effects on pregnant women and on children), to quantify climate change-related increases in workplace heat exposures and the impact this will have on human health and productivity”.

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