New NOAA study estimates future loss of labor capacity

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New NOAA study estimates future loss of labor capacity

Post by  on Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:49 pm

New NOAA study estimates future loss of labor capacity as climate warms

February 25, 2013

Courtesy Of NOAA -
A new NOAA study projects that heat-stress related labor capacity
losses will double globally by 2050 with a warming climate. The impact
will be felt the most by those who work outside or in hot environments,
such as firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers,
factory workers, and others who will be forced to slow down due to
increases in heat and humidity. This will be particularly apparent in
mid-latitude and tropical regions, which include South and East Asia,
North America, and Australia.
The research, published online today in Nature Climate Change, uses
existing occupational health and safety thresholds to establish a new
metric to quantify a healthy, acclimated individual’s capacity to
safely perform sustained labor under environmental heat stress. Heat
stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and can
also increase the risk of injuries. Age, obesity, and medical
conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure can also put
workers at greater risk of heat stress.

“Most studies of the direct impact of global warming on humans have
focused on mortality under either extreme weather events or theoretical
physiological limits. We wanted instead to describe climate warming in
practical terms that people commonly experience already,” John Dunne,
Ph.D., of the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and lead author said.

Peak summer months of heat stress currently reduce labor capacity to
about 90 percent of full potential. By 2050, labor capacity is
predicted to drop to 80 percent in peak months, even with reductions of
greenhouse gas emissions, according to the study.

This work represents a fundamental step forward in the ability to
quantify the direct impact of climate warming on the global human
population. The findings indicate that even with reductions of
greenhouse gas emissions, heat stress would still force a doubling of
labor capacity losses by the middle of this century, with more severe
reductions under continued highest emissions scenarios out to 2200.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise under the higher
projections, increased heat stress would reduce labor capacity to 39
percent in peak months by 2200. In this case of 6 degrees C (11 degrees
F) global warming, heat stress in New York City would exceed that of
any location in the present day. Many areas would be unable to sustain
safe human labor without environmental control, air conditioning for
example, during the warmest months.
Humans have a range of temperature and humidity over which they can
environmentally adapt and work safely and productively. The thresholds
come from guidelines established by the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health and adopted operationally by many
institutions and military organizations around the world, including the
United States Army.

“We were looking for a way to quantify how the climate warming
projected by our models will impact the Earth’s population that was at
the same time practical, relevant, physiologically sound, and made best
use of our models’ strengths while accounting for their weaknesses.
This new perspective quantifies the direct human impact of climate
warming,” Dunne continued.


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