Reduced labour productivity in warm climates from increased heat stress

While not so much of a challenge in Canada, a new study from United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists indicates that labour productivity in mid-latitude and tropical regions is likely to decrease by a further 10% by 2050 as a result of heat stress induced by climate change. The study finds that heat stress has already reduced productivity by 10% over the past few decades, so the cumulative effective may be as much as a 20% reduction in human productivity from climate change.

In peak months, labour capacity may fall to less than 40% of past levels by 2200 in tropical and mid-latitudes as a result of extreme climatological heat stress. The authors acknowledge that many uncertainties accompany these projections.

For industry, particularly industries with plants located in tropical and sub-tropical areas, this research suggests that planning to reduce the impact of hotter and more humid weather on workers should become part of productivity plans. One of the challenges is that periods of significantly increased heat stress will be intermittent and unpredictable in the timeframe of production planning. Fully meeting tight production deadlines in manufacturing operations in the summer months may become more difficult unless improved ventilation and/or air conditioning is installed in manufacturing plants.,

The study (pay) and an abstract (free) are available at http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1827.html.

A NOAA summary is at http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/20130225_laborandclimate.html

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