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International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 291–306 | Cite as

Estimating population heat exposure and impacts on working people in conjunction with climate change

  • Tord Kjellstrom
  • Chris Freyberg
  • Bruno Lemke
  • Matthias Otto
  • David Briggs
Special Issue on Trans-disciplinary approaches to climate change

Abstract

Increased environmental heat levels as a result of climate change present a major challenge to the health, wellbeing and sustainability of human communities in already hot parts of this planet. This challenge has many facets from direct clinical health effects of daily heat exposure to indirect effects related to poor air quality, poor access to safe drinking water, poor access to nutritious and safe food and inadequate protection from disease vectors and environmental toxic chemicals. The increasing environmental heat is a threat to environmental sustainability. In addition, social conditions can be undermined by the negative effects of increased heat on daily work and life activities and on local cultural practices. The methodology we describe can be used to produce quantitative estimates of the impacts of climate change on work activities in countries and local communities. We show in maps the increasing heat exposures in the shade expressed as the occupational heat stress index Wet Bulb Globe Temperature. Some tropical and sub-tropical areas already experience serious heat stress, and the continuing heating will substantially reduce work capacity and labour productivity in widening parts of the world. Southern parts of Europe and the USA will also be affected. Even the lowest target for climate change (average global temperature change = 1.5 °C at representative concentration pathway (RCP2.6) will increase the loss of daylight work hour output due to heat in many tropical areas from less than 2% now up to more than 6% at the end of the century. A global temperature change of 2.7 °C (at RCP6.0) will double this annual heat impact on work in such areas. Calculations of this type of heat impact at country level show that in the USA, the loss of work capacity in moderate level work in the shade will increase from 0.17% now to more than 1.3% at the end of the century based on the 2.7 °C temperature change. The impact is naturally mainly occurring in the southern hotter areas. In China, the heat impact will increase from 0.3 to 2%, and in India, from 2 to 8%. Especially affected countries, such as Cambodia, may have losses going beyond 10%, while countries with most of the population at high cooler altitude, such as Ethiopia, may experience much lower losses.

Keywords

Climate change Heat Work Health impacts Social/economic impacts 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by funds from the Pufendorf Institute at Lund University, Sweden, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 668786 (HEAT-SHIELD project).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© ISB 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Technological Research and Innovation (CETRI)LimassolCyprus
  2. 2.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Ruby Coast Research Centre team, Health and Environment International TrustMapuaNew Zealand
  4. 4.Nelson-Marlborough Institute of TechnologyNelsonNew Zealand
  5. 5.Department of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsImperial CollegeLondonUK

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