Global warming could cause $1.6 trillion in labor losses with the impact from increasing heat and humidity levels on the physiological limits that humans can tolerate, according to a new paper prepared by the researchers from Duke University and published in the journal of Nature Communications on Tuesday.
Every extra degree of global warming will cause exponential labor losses with adaptation to hot working conditions becoming less effective as the world warms, it said in the paper.
The researchers found that the world currently loses $280-311 billion per year due to heat exposure for workers.
However, should the world get 2°C hotter than now or about 3°C above pre-industrial levels, and if immediate action is not taken to limit global warming, these losses will rise more than fivefold, equating to $1.6 trillion.
The number of hours lost in the 12-hour workday increases from around 101 billion hours per degree Celsius in the last 42 years to 197 billion hours per degree Celsius with an additional 2°C of global warming, according to the paper.
The possibility to adapt to climate change by moving some work to cooler hours reduces by about 2% with each extra degree of warming.
'Many workers are already stopping work in the afternoon because it is too hot. I thought the early morning would remain cool enough to comfortably work, but I was shocked at how quickly even the coolest hours of the day become too hot to work continuously,' Luke Parsons, a climate researcher at Duke University's Nicholas School of Environment, said.
'I was surprised to find that the ability of workers to adapt to warming is not only reduced but is also reduced increasingly quickly with each degree of global warming,' he added.
He noted that critical jobs such as agricultural work and construction work will become almost impossible in the summer months in many places.
'Sadly, many of the countries and people most impacted by current and future labor losses are not responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions,' Parsons noted.
According to the paper, India, China, Pakistan and Indonesia, where larger factions of the population work outdoors, will experience the biggest losses overall.
However, the study projects that 14 less populated countries could experience higher per-capita losses.
Those countries are Bangladesh, Thailand, Gambia, Senegal, Cambodia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Brunei Darussalam, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Sri Lanka and Nauru.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya