Here’s another consequence of global warming: our planet’s increasingly hot, wet climate has cut the amount of work people can do by 10% in the past 6 decades. Basically, hotter air tends to retain more humidity, and as anyone who’s worked in high humidity conditions can tell you – that’s not pleasant. When it’s not pleasant, we don’t work as good. This trend will accentuate further in the future.

hotNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looked at military and industrial guidelines already in place for heat stress, trying to estimate how much future changes will impact labor conditions.

“We project that heat stress-related labour capacity losses will double globally by 2050 with a warming climate,” said the lead author, John Dunne of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton.

Work capability is already at 90% (at most) during most hot and humid periods, Dunne and his co-authors wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. If future trends continue many areas in the world will be exposed to heat stress “beyond anything experienced in the world today”, he said – a scenario which will greatly affect the population’s working capacity.

Hyperthermia will become a common topic; humans are endothermic creatures – we give off heat. If the air around us is too hot and we just can’t give off heat, we go into hyperthermia.

“This planet will start experiencing heat stress that’s unlike anything experienced today,” said Ronald Stouffer, a co-author of the study.

The problem varies greatly regionally. As an example, he noted that 70,000 people were killed during a disastrous 2003 heatwave in Europe, where heat stress was highly unusual.

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