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A still from Do The Right Thing, possibly the best move ever made about being driven insane by heat.

Bad News: Global Warming Is Smothering Our Productivity

In the warmest months, global warming reduces the amount we can get done by 10%.

We hear about climate change as a force that will melt our ice caps and flood our coastlines. We hear about temperature and rainfall fluctuations affecting our crop production and causing famine. But we don’t often hear about its effect on human productivity.

That may change. New research just published in Nature Climate Change cross-referenced the latest in heat and humidity projections with everything we know about human labor capacity (seriously, they examined industrial and military guidelines). What the study found was staggering. Because the human body is a machine that uses sweat to cool itself, it can’t be as effective in hot, humid environments--which means that over the past few decades of climate trends, we’ve already lost 10% of peak human labor production during the warmest months. And it’s only getting worse.

By 2050, the study sees that labor reduction doubling, to 20%. And by 2200, you could have a capacity reduction as great as 40%. Two centuries in the future, we’d be getting about half as much done outside as we can today.

For those who think cushy desk jobs are going to mitigate our need for outdoor labor, it’s worth recognizing some of the paper’s more fleshed-out scenarios. By 2100, Washington, D.C. could be as sticky hot as New Orleans. And if global warming exceeds 11°F, we lose not just some but all labor capacity in many areas, like the lower Mississippi Valley. That doesn’t just mean you can’t dig a ditch outside--you won’t want to do anything outside. In fact, New York City would be as hot as Bahrain, and “Bahrain heat stress would induce hypothermia in even sleeping humans.”

We’ve reached a horribly ironic tipping point. Since the beginning of our species, our tools have made humanity more efficient at virtually every job we do. But now, they’ve come to collect on their debt.

Read more here.

[Hat tip: Smithsonian]

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2 Comments

  • Eric-TeamSupport

    Mark, the Earth has been heating and cooling and heating and cooling for billions of years.  Living things that inhabit the planet will adapt or perish to these natural changes.  You speak of global warming as if it's something new.  Humans have been around but a mere fraction of our planets existence.

  • Marly Santana Garcia

    ciertamente nos encontramos en cambios ambientales constantes (pues el planeta está vivo), como es el caso del calentamiento global, aún que no se habla sobre innovación en cuanto al tema, se trata es de mostrar que las actividades cada vez mas irresponsables de los países y de los medios de de consumo en cuanto a la explotación de los recurso  naturales, esta generando consecuencias ambientales que obviamente "la naturaleza tiene que cobrar"  pues los procesos ambientales son normales... los humanos somos los que interferimos en ellos y los elementos de la naturaleza nos demuestran una y otra vez que con ellos no se juega!! y que no podremos dominarlos!! pero el hombre en su afán de controlar todo aún no a entendido que no puede controlar el ambiente ni la naturaleza, por la sencilla razón los seres humanos somos parte de ella así que en vez de tomar estos temas tan a la ligera, deberíamos trabajar en función de armonizar los procesos ambientales y sociales respetando los ciclos naturales de nuestro planeta no abusando de ellos porque no le estamos dando oportunidad al planeta de regenerarse y completar sus ciclos... lo que inevitablemente repercutirá en la humanidad