The impact of climate change on labour and output

An emerging field of research on the macroeconomic consequences of climate change is the examination of the impact of temperature and heat stress on the productivity of workers across the economy. There is an observable relationship between workplace temperatures and performance—beyond a certain temperature, the hourly productivity of workers or the time allocated to work declines. The risk of overheating increases with the level of physical exertion required to perform a given task, the duration of the task, the experience of the worker in performing the task, and the ambient temperature of the work environment. Heat generated by the body needs to be transferred to the external environment to avoid increases in the body’s temperature. If the body is unable to dissipate the heat, then it begins to experience dizziness, muscle cramps and fever. In extreme circumstances, exposure to hot temperatures can cause acute cardiovascular, respiratory and cerebrovascular distress, which can be life-threatening. The available evidence makes a strong case for including impacts on occupational heat stress in future macroeconomic analyses of the economic consequences of climate change for Canada.

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