Climate change slashes labor capacity: study
By Environment Correspondent Deborah Zabarenko, ReutersWASHINGTON--Earth's increasingly hot, wet climate has cut the amount of work people can do in the worst heat by about 10 percent in the past six decades, and that loss in labor capacity could double by the middle of the century, U.S. government scientists reported on Sunday.
February 26, 2013, 12:15 am TWN
Because warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, there's more absolute humidity in the atmosphere now than there used to be. And as anyone who has sweltered through a hot, muggy summer knows, it's more stressful to work through hot months when the humidity is high.
To figure out the stress of working in hotter, wetter conditions, experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looked at military and industrial guidelines already in place for heat stress, and set those guidelines against climate projections for how hot and humid it's likely to get over the next century.
Their findings were stark: “We project that heat stress-related labor capacity losses will double globally by 2050 with a warming climate,” said lead author John Dunne of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton.
Work capability is already down to 90 percent during the most hot and humid periods, Dunne and his co-authors wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. Using a middle-of-the-road projection of future temperature and humidity, they estimate that could drop to 80 percent by 2050.
A more extreme scenario of future global warming, which estimated a temperature rise of 10.8 degrees F (6 degrees C), would make it difficult to work in the hottest months in many parts of the world, Dunne said in a briefing.