Heat saps Australian workers' productivity, study says

May 4, 2015
The sun scorches the already cracked earth on a farm in Walgett, 650 kilometres (400 miles) northwest of Sydney, on February 11,
The sun scorches the already cracked earth on a farm in Walgett, 650 kilometres (400 miles) northwest of Sydney, on February 11, 2015

Worker productivity lost due to heat stress cost Australia some US$6.2 billion (5.6 billion euros) in 2013/14, said a study Monday that warned of worse to come as the planet warms.

Three-quarters of respondents to a questionnaire said they were affected by at the workplace over a 12-month period, according to findings published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Seventy percent said heat had made them less productive on at least one day in the previous 12 months, and seven percent said they had been absent from work at least one day.

Based on data obtained from the representative group of 1,726 working Australians aged 18 to 65, a team of international researchers calculated the annual cost of absenteeism and impaired performance due to heat at $655 per person.

"This represents an annual economic burden of around $6.2 billion for the Australian workforce," the team wrote. "This amounts to 0.33 to 0.47 percent of Australia's GDP."

The study was done in a particularly hot period in Australian history—2013 was the warmest year on record and 2014 the third warmest.

The findings "suggest that adaptation measures to reduce heat effects should be adopted widely if severe economic impacts from labour productivity loss are to be avoided if heat waves become as frequent as predicted," wrote the authors.

Negative impacts from heat can include accidents due to concentration lapses, and lower productivity due to impaired decision-making or fatigue.

Already one of the warmest continents, Australia is particularly at risk of more frequent as a result of global warming.

It is also one of the world's top per capita emitters of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The world's nations are negotiating a global pact to limit carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning. The agreement is meant to be sealed at a global summit in Paris in December, and take effect from 2020.

Explore further: Climate detectives reveal handprint of human caused climate change in Australia

More information: Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2623

Related Stories

UN says 2013 extreme events due to warming Earth (Update)

March 24, 2014

The head of the U.N. weather agency said Monday that recent extreme weather patterns are "consistent" with human-induced climate change, citing key events that wreaked havoc in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Pacific region last ...

UN climate chief tempers expectations on Paris deal

February 5, 2015

(AP)—Tempering expectations on a global climate deal in Paris this year, the U.N.'s top climate diplomat on Thursday warned against assuming the pact will suffice to prevent dangerous levels of warming.

New index measures the magnitude of heat waves

November 5, 2014

JRC scientists have developed a new index to measure the magnitude of heat waves, in cooperation with colleagues from five research organisations. According to the index projections, under the worst climate scenario of temperature ...

Recommended for you

Top nitrogen researchers imagine world beyond fossil fuels

May 25, 2018

Freeways choked with traffic, supermarkets laden with fertilizer-grown stock from distance fields and virtually everything we touch derived from petroleum-based plastics. It's hard to imagine life beyond our fossil-fueled ...

Climate change may lead to bigger atmospheric rivers

May 25, 2018

A new NASA-led study shows that climate change is likely to intensify extreme weather events known as atmospheric rivers across most of the globe by the end of this century, while slightly reducing their number.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.