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Extreme heat drains billions in worker productivity

Global warming is draining tens of billions of dollars in economic productivity each year from some of the world’s largest cities, according to new research from the Atlantic Council.

The problem is the effect of extreme heat on workers. The report estimated that annual worker productivity losses amounted to $44 billion on average across the 12 cities included in the research. That figure is projected to rise to $84 billion by 2050 unless heat-trapping greenhouse gases are reduced, according to the analysis.

“Climate-driven heat is changing the way we live and work, but current awareness of this silent and invisible threat is dangerously insufficient,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, senior vice president and director of the Adrienne Arsht Foundation Center for Resilience. -Rockefeller in the Atlantic. Council, in a statement accompanying the publication of the report.

The researchers examined a variety of cities, from the Greek capital of Athens to the Indian capital of New Delhi. In the United States they studied Miami and Los Angeles.

They found that as productivity losses increase, cities will have fewer financial resources to adopt climate adaptation and resilience measures, creating what the authors called the “pernicious effects” of urban heat. The researchers projected that by the year 2050, more than 970 cities would experience average summer high temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to 354 cities today.

Yet cities continue to grow as rural economies lay off workers, forcing tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed people to move to urban areas. According to the World Bank, 4.4 billion people, or 56 percent of the world’s population, live in urban areas. That number is expected to rise to 6 billion by 2045 based on population growth and migration projections.

“The disproportionate impact of heat on cities, and the ironic reality that more and more people are flocking to them due to escalating climate impacts elsewhere, forced us to quantify and explore the economic and social ramifications of our roasting planet. Baughman McLeod said.

Productivity decline will vary across cities based on their core economic sectors, geographic location, history and culture, and other socioeconomic factors. As a result, “cities in the Global South face larger and more rapid shocks to worker productivity as part of production in low- and middle-income cities,” the researchers said. They include Bangkok, Thailand; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Freetown, Sierra Leone; and New Delhi.

Dhaka, for example, is expected to see an 8.3 percent loss in worker productivity as a share of total economic output, according to the report, while Bangkok will see a nearly 5 percent reduction. “These losses are particularly damaging to lower-wage sectors,” with outdoor workers losing 40 percent of their economic output, according to the analysis.

Freetown, a West African coastal capital of 1.27 million people, will see nine to 120 extremely hot days by 2050. Night-time temperatures will also rise, a “critical aspect for predicting extreme heat injuries and losses,” the analysis says. . The city, which recently appointed a designated heat officer, has launched a campaign to plant 1 million trees and is working to provide shade structures for female vendors at three large outdoor markets.

“We will continue to work to protect Freetonians from this invisible threat,” Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said in a statement.

The richest cities will also experience deep economic pain from lost productivity.

In Miami, the combination of increased heat and humidity is projected to double economic losses—from $10 billion to $20 billion—over the next three decades. In a statement, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava noted that extreme heat has a particular effect on “our most vulnerable indoor and outdoor workers.” She said the city is working to add more green infrastructure, including tree canopy expansion, to alleviate outdoor heat stress.

Los Angeles, which currently experiences nearly $5 billion in lost work productivity in an average year, according to the analysis, will also see heat-related economic losses double, to $11 billion, by 2050. All sectors of the economy of the city will be Affected but disproportionate impacts would be felt on construction workers, according to the analysis.

London, with a generally milder climate than many southern cities, “is not prepared for very hot spells, which are occurring with increasing frequency.” The problem will be exacerbated by thermal stress on infrastructure, such as roads and railways, that are aging or not designed to withstand high temperatures.

“In the Northern Hemisphere, last summer painted a stark and frightening picture of the devastating impacts of our steadily warming planet, where extreme heat currently kills more people globally than any other climate-driven disaster,” says the analysis.

Other cities evaluated in the report are Buenos Aires, Argentina; Monterrey Mexico; Santiago, Chile; and Sydney.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission of POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environmental professionals.

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