Rising heat causing loss of labor; 162 hours lost per person per year in India, according to study – Gaonconnection

Rising heat due to global warming is causing loss of labor and India is one of the worst affected countries. As heat and humidity levels rise due to climate change, leading to heat stress, workers working outdoors are estimated to suffer the greatest overall losses – economic, health and well-being.

Here are some of the key findings from a new study called “Increased loss of labor and decreased potential for adaptation in a warmer world” led by researchers at Duke University, based in North Carolina. The study found that workers in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Western Pacific will suffer the worst impacts from the rising heat. India, where more of the population works abroad, is among the worst affected countries.

“Moist heat is particularly dangerous because high ambient temperatures combined with high humidity prevent the body from losing body heat to the outside environment through the evaporative cooling of perspiration,” the researchers explained in the published study. yesterday December 14th.

The most populous countries in South and East Asia experience the greatest number of lost working hours, both during the coolest hours and during the full working day. India has shown the largest impacts of heat exposure on heavy work (over 101 billion hours lost / year), despite its modest average job losses per capita – 162 hours lost per person and per year.

Exposure to heat in the middle of the day causes productivity losses of up to 20 minutes per hour in the country. Photo: Gaon Connection

“Those most affected are not responsible for carbon emissions”

The study pointed out that critical work, such as farm work and construction work, will become almost impossible to do safely during afternoon hours in summer in many places.

“Unfortunately, many of the countries and people most affected by current and future labor losses are not responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas (carbon) emissions,” Luke Parsons, researcher in climatology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, which led the study. , was quoted in its press release.

“Many workers in the tropics already stop working in the afternoon because it is too hot,” he said. “Fortunately, about 30% of this lost workforce can still be recovered by moving it early in the morning. But with each additional degree of global warming, the ability of workers to adapt in this way will rapidly diminish as even the coolest hours of the day will quickly become too hot for continuous work outdoors, ”Parsons added.

Up to 20 minutes / hour lost due to heat exposure

In many low latitude locations, heat exposure in shade is already reaching or approaching levels that cause significant losses in labor productivity both in the morning and at noon.

For example, an average summer day in New Delhi exposes workers in the shade to midday heat exposure that would result in productivity losses of around 15-20 minutes per hour of safe working time.

On the contrary, the early hours of the morning tend to be still cool enough to approach the “safe” working thresholds for intensive and continuous manual work, with less than 10 minutes per hour of lost productivity.

Health impact, what is the way forward

The researchers pointed out that heat exposure is also implicated as a potential factor contributing to an epidemic of chronic kidney disease among otherwise healthy and relatively young workers in Central America, Sri Lanka, India and Egypt.

The researchers recommended that during humidity and high temperatures, workers outside should slow down their work, hydrate and take breaks in the shade to allow the body to cool off and maintain a temperature. internal bodily harm or risk injury, illness or death if they continue to work at a high level of stress.

If average global temperatures rise an additional two degrees Celsius – or about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – from now, labor losses in the cooler half of the day will exceed current losses in the cooler half of the day. hotter, Parsons said.

“Our analysis shows that if we limit warming to another degree from current levels, we can still avoid most worker productivity losses by moving heavy jobs into the early hours of the morning. But if the warming exceeds one degree Celsius, it becomes much more difficult. It’s a slippery curve, it gets exponentially worse as the temperature rises, ”he said.

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