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WaPo: Work will be a thing of the past?! ‘Workers around the world are suffering from excessive heat fueled by climate change’

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Scorching heat is driving down economic productivity around the world


An Indian girl splashes her face with water to keep off the heat as her mother works at a nearby road construction project on a hot summer afternoon in New Delhi in 2014. (AP/Saurabh Das)

From construction workers in Dubai to farmers in India, workers around the world are suffering from excessive heat fueled by climate change. This heat is leading to huge productivity losses and mounting economic strain for dozens of countries, according to research published Monday ahead of a U.N. forum.

The study builds on research detailing how extreme heat in some places prevents employees from working during the hottest hours of the day. People simply tire faster and accomplish less the hotter it gets. That lost work time translates into significant hits on the gross domestic product in nations across the globe, and it is a problem that could deepen as the Earth continues to warm.

“For certain tropical countries that are not so well-economically developed, they might lose up to 10 percent of working hours during daylight,” said Tord Kjellstrom, one of the co-authors of the research and a visiting professor at Australian National University. “It’s a whole working month that would be lost because it’s so hot you can’t work.”

[Sweeping study claims that rising temperatures will sharply cut economic productivity]

Kjellstrom and fellow researchers found that in dozens of countries, daylight work hours lost to excessive heat have increased since the 1990s. They also estimate that at the current rate of global warming, that trend will continue. For instance, countries such as India, Vietnam and Indonesia could see the number of lost work hours more than double by 2055 and more than triple by 2085.

The idea that heat and work productivity are intertwined is not a new concept, of course. Researchers have long studied whether the high heat in the southern U.S. hampered economic activity there, even as the North benefited from an industrial boom.

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