Pollution & Health
28 Aug 2013:
Illegal Slash-and-Burn Fires
Are Causing Smog Problem in Indonesia
Skies above Indonesia have been blanketed with smog
as wildfires burn throughout its forests. Ignoring
environmental laws, companies are using the practice of slash-and-burn to clear land for palm oil plantations. The illegal fires decimate rainforests and peatlands and fill the air with lethal levels of smoke, as seen in this NASA satellite image taken on August 27. Indonesia's pollution index hit a record-high 401 earlier this month; any reading above 400 is considered life-threatening to the elderly and sick. Palm oil is the world's largest vegetable oil commodity
and demand is rising rapidly, causing massive damage to tropical forests, especially in Southeast Asia.
23 Aug 2013:
Arsenic in Groundwater
May Affect 20 Million People in China
Nearly 20 million people in China are exposed to high levels of arsenic in the water they use for drinking and cooking, a new model based on geological and
hydrological data and well samples shows. The model predicts high arsenic concentrations
(10 micrograms per liter or greater) across more than 580,000 square kilometers, according to Chinese and Swiss researchers, who published their findings in Science
. Researchers had long known that some regions had high arsenic concentrations, but it would have taken several decades to test the millions of wells in China. The new prediction combined the most recent tests with data about the underlying geology, soil characteristics, and topography.
13 Aug 2013:
Too Many Urban Beehives
May Do More Harm Than Good, Experts Say
A surge in urban beekeeping may be doing more harm than good to honeybee populations
, according to UK scientists. As the number of rooftop hives increases in cities worldwide
— including London, where there are
A Berlin beekeeper
now 10 hives per square kilometer — two researchers from the University of Sussex warn that too many hives can be detrimental. Writing in The Biologist
, the magazine of the Society of Biology, they suggest that inexperienced beekeepers can create conditions in which there isn’t enough food for their insects. “If there are too many colonies in an area, then the food supply will be insufficient,” Francis Ratnieks, a professor at the university’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, told the BBC. “This will mean that colonies do not thrive, and may also affect other species that also visit flowers.”
09 Aug 2013:
Mapping of Monarch Butterfly
Migration Yields Clues About Decline
A comprehensive mapping of the North American migration patterns of the iconic monarch butterfly
could help preserve a species threatened by loss of habitat and food sources
, a team of international
A monarch butterfly
researchers says. In a study conducted across 17 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, from southern Texas to Alberta, biologists from Canada, the U.S., and Australia tracked the northward migration of the monarchs, documenting five generations in a single breeding season. By analyzing a chemical signature found on the adult butterflies’ wings that reveals their specific birthplace, scientists were able to track the different generations of butterflies as they migrated north to the U.S. Midwest, from which many butterflies then traveled to Alberta. According to Tyler Flockhart, a Ph. D. student at the University of Guelph in Canada and lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B
, the decline in milkweed and a surge in genetically modified crops might be affecting monarch survival.
29 Jul 2013:
Wired Honeybees Show
Harmful Impacts of Pesticides on Navigation
Using tiny radar antennae glued to the backs of honeybees, European scientists have found that bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides were more likely to become disoriented
and separated from their hives.
Honeybee wired with radar antennae
After attaching the small transponders to 200 bees, including some that were fed pesticide-laced syrup, scientists discovered that the exposed bees had difficulty navigating and were unable to retrace the path back to their hives. “We find the control bees are just fantastic — they use their landscape and their vector memory and they do fine,” Randolf Menzel, an insect neurobiologist at the Free University in Berlin, told the London Telegraph
. “The treated bees, depending on the doses of the substance, are more confused.” The findings appear to support a theory that neonicotinoids make bees more vulnerable to pathogens and could be a factor in so-called “colony collapse disorder,” a phenomenon that has decimated honeybee populations
in recent years.
24 Jul 2013:
European Investment Bank
Will Not Finance Most Coal Power Stations
The European Investment Bank (EIB), the main lending arm of the European Union, has decided to stop financing most coal-fired power plants
, part of an effort to help the 28-nation bloc meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2030. The EIB says that new and refurbished coal-fired power stations will be ineligible for funding unless they emit less than 550 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, a standard that traditional coal power plants would be unable to meet. Power stations that burn coal would only be able to meet the standards if they also produce heat for municipal or commercial heating systems or burned biomass. The EIB says it plans to further tighten its emissions standards for coal- and natural gas-fired power plants in the future.
09 Jul 2013:
Coal Emissions in China Slash
5.5 Years off Life Expectancy, Study Says
The life expectancy of people living in northern China is 5 ½ years less than in southern China
as a result of the north’s notoriously bad air pollution, largely due to the burning of coal, according to a new study. In an analysis
of air quality recordings from 90 Chinese cities from 1981 to 2000 and mortality data from the 1990s, a team of researchers estimated that high air pollution will cost the roughly 500 million people living north of the Huai River a combined 2.5 billion years of life expectancy compared with people living in the south. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, the researchers say increased mortality, attributable to cardiorespiratory illness
, is the unintended consequence of a Chinese policy that from 1950 to 1980 provided free coal for boilers in cities north of the Huai, but not for those living in the south.
26 Jun 2013:
Exposure to Lead Costs
Developing Nations $1 Trillion Annually
The exposure of children to toxic lead, and the subsequent declines in IQ and earning potential, costs the developing world nearly $1 trillion annually
, according to a new report. Based on the average lead levels in children under the age of 5, researchers from New York University found that Africa suffers the greatest costs from lead exposure, losing an estimated $137.7 billion annually, or about 4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). In Latin America, the costs are about $142.3 billion, the study found, while in Asian nations the costs are about $699.9 billion. By comparison, the annual costs in the U.S. and Europe, where exposure to lead has decreased significantly in recent decades, are about $50 billion and $55 billion, respectively. The report said lead consumption has increased worldwide
since the early 1970s, largely because of rising demand for lead batteries. The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives
21 Jun 2013:
Illegal Fires in Sumatra
Send Dangerous Pollution to Singapore
Billowing smoke from illegal fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has engulfed Singapore this week, pushing air pollution to record levels
consecutive days. The smoke, which is captured in a new NASA satellite image
, has created an acrid blanket of smog across the region and historic levels of air pollution. According to government officials, Singapore's air pollution index reached 401 on Friday, a level considered hazardous for breathing. Before this week, the previous high was 226. The smoke has been blowing east toward southern Malaysia and Singapore
from Sumatra, where farmers set illegal fires to clear land for new crops during the mid-year dry season. The fires are yet another sign of the large-scale deforestation taking place on Sumatra.
20 Jun 2013:
Global Reports Underline
Threats to Planet’s Bird Species
New global research underlines the rising threats facing the world’s bird species, with three reports providing evidence that climate change, overfishing, and unsustainable agriculture are taking a heavy toll on
Puffins along the Maine coast.
avian populations worldwide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reports that numbers of some migratory bird populations in Maine — including Arctic terns and puffins — have plummeted in recent years
because their food supplies are disappearing as a result of commercial fishing and the shifting of fish to cooler waters, which is making it more difficult for some birds to feed their young. In a separate study, scientists predict that rising sea levels will devastate habitat for some migratory shore birds
in the coming decades. Higher sea levels, the study predicts, will flood 23 percent to 40 percent of the intertidal habitats for several shorebird species, triggering population declines of as much as 70 percent. Overall, one in eight bird species globally is at risk of extinction
, according to a new report by BirdLife International
12 Jun 2013:
Bird-Mimicking Mobile Apps
Harmful to Species, UK Groups Say
Wildlife officials in the UK are urging people not to use mobile phone apps that mimic bird songs in nature reserves, warning that the devices can harm some sensitive species
, particularly during breeding season.
Icon for Chirp! app
The increasingly popular apps, which use recordings of bird calls to lure the birds closer for photographs or better viewing, can distract birds from critical tasks, such as feeding their young, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), a conservation group that oversees 42 reserves, is discouraging the use of the mobile apps at its reserves
, calling it an intentional disturbance of sensitive species such as the Nightjar, a nocturnal bird that has experienced a recent recovery in the area. “I’m sure visitors would be devastated if they realized the possible disturbance they were causing to wildlife,” said Chris Thain, a manager at DWT’s Brownsea Island reserve.
30 May 2013:
Nuclear Power Has Prevented
1.84 Million Premature Deaths, Study Says
The use of nuclear power from 1971 to 2009 prevented more than 1.8 million premature deaths
related to air pollution and 64 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a new study says. Using historical production data and estimates of mortality per unit of electricity generated, scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University calculated that replacing nuclear energy sources with fossil fuel-burning sources during that period would have caused about 1.84 million premature deaths. By midcentury, they project, nuclear power could prevent an additional 420,000 to 7 million deaths, depending on which fossil fuels it replaces, and 80 to 240 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. “By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than the expansion of nuclear power,” said Pushker A. Kharecha, who, along with NASA’s James Hansen, co-authored the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology
. The study calculated that nuclear power plant accidents caused about 4,900 deaths during the same period.
28 May 2013:
Electricity Availability Growth
Must Double to Achieve Global Access
The rate of expansion of access to electricity will have to double over the next 17 years
if the world's population is to achieve 100 percent access to modern energy, a new report says. While about 1.7 billion people became connected to electricity sources worldwide between 1990 and 2010, that increase barely outpaced population growth during that period, according to Sustainable Energy for All, a group lead by the World Bank and the United Nations. More than 1.2 billion people still do not have access to electricity, and 2.8 billion still rely on burning wood or other biomass for household fuel, a source of pollution that causes about 4 million premature deaths annually. Achieving universal access to modern energy will require investments of $45 billion annually, which is five times the current levels. If combined with an expansion of renewable energy sources and improved efficiencies, however, achieving this growth in energy access would increase CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent, the report says.
23 May 2013:
China Poised to Launch
Much-Anticipated Carbon-Trading Project
China has revealed details of a carbon cap-and-trade pilot project that will be launched next month, a much-anticipated market attempt to rein in carbon dioxide emissions by the world’s biggest emitter. The first phase of the program, which will be implemented in the southern city of Shenzhen, will cover 638 companies
that produce 38 percent of the city’s carbon emissions, according to the city branch of the government’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The system will impose caps on the companies’ CO2 emissions and establish a market for the buying and selling of emissions permits. Eventually, the program will be expanded to include the transportation, manufacturing, and construction sectors, the Guardian
reports. By 2014, the experimental scheme will be expanded into six other designated cities and provinces, including Beijing and Shanghai. Earlier this week, the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald
reported that the NDRC is contemplating a nationwide system to control CO2 emissions by 2020.
21 May 2013:
Large Majority of Americans
Believe Global Warming Should be a Priority
Roughly 70 percent of Americans say global warming should be a priority for President Obama and Congress and 61 percent support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax that would be used to help reduce the national debt, according to a new survey
by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. In a national survey conducted in April, 87 percent of respondents said that the president and Congress should make developing clean sources of energy a priority, 68 percent favored regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 71 percent supported providing tax rebates for people who buy solar panels and energy-efficient vehicles. Seventy percent said global warming should be at least a “medium” priority, while 28 percent said it should be a low priority. The poll showed that 7 in 10 Americans support funding more research into green energy sources.
16 May 2013:
Scientist’s U.S. Road Trip
Reveals Unexpected Methane Emissions
Methane measurements collected during a scientist’s road trip across the U.S. indicate that local emissions of the potent greenhouse gas are higher than previously known in many regions
. Using a gas chromatograph mounted to the roof of a rented camper, Ira Leifer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, collected air samples from Florida to California, finding the highest methane concentrations in areas with significant refinery activity — such as Houston, Texas — and in a region of central California with oil and gas production. He found that methane concentrations exceeded the levels estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy, particularly in areas near industrial fossil fuel extraction sites. The results point to the importance of targeting these “fugitive” methane emissions in parallel with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Leifer's findings were published in the journal Atmospheric Environment
13 May 2013:
Project Looks to Quantify
Power Emissions Through Crowdsourcing
A team of scientists is enlisting public support to help produce a more comprehensive inventory of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants globally, urging citizens to identify power plants in their communities
with a new digital app. While data from some of the
world’s industrialized regions — including the U.S. and Europe — are already widely available, researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) say specific information on carbon emissions from most parts of the world is difficult to obtain. “It turns out that we know far less about fossil fuels than we thought we did,” Kevin Gurney, an emissions modeler at ASU and co-leader of the so-called Ventus Project, told Nature
. “We could use some help.” Using a simple Google Earth application, the technology enables users to upload exact coordinates of local power plants, and, if possible, information on the type of fuels used or the quantity of CO2 emissions. Organizers hope that the crowdsourcing initiative will fill data gaps on the world’s roughly 30,000 power plants.
10 May 2013:
U.S. Web Tool Aims to Bolster
Research on Climate and Health Links
The Obama Administration this week introduced an online tool
to improve research into the link between climate change and human health and promote innovative responses to future threats. As climate change triggers more extreme weather events and temperature shifts, it is becoming increasingly important to determine how these changes will affect respiratory illnesses, infectious diseases, allergies, and other human ailments, said Tom Armstrong, executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Writing on the department’s blog
, Armstrong said the so-called Metadata Access Tool for Climate and Health
, or MATCH, will provide an accessible portal of metadata from more than 9,000 health, environment and climate science data sets. “MATCH will help researchers and public health officials integrate the latest information from across environmental and health disciplines in order to inform more effective responses to climate and health threats,” he said.
09 May 2013:
Third Coal Export Proposal
Falls By Wayside in Pacific Northwest
A large U.S. pipeline developer has dropped plans to build a $200-million coal export facility in northern Oregon, the third major terminal proposal to be shelved or canceled in the Pacific Northwest. Officials at Houston-based Kinder Morgan say the Columbia River site could not optimally accommodate the 30 million tons of coal that were expected to run through the site annually, largely for markets in Asia. While the company said the decision had nothing to do with public opposition to transporting massive amounts of coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to the coast, critics of the plan say growing protests affected the decision. “If that site didn’t meet their physical constraints, they would have known that… years ago when they proposed this,” Brett VandenHeuvel, director of the group Columbia Riverkeeper, told the Los Angeles Times
. Thousands of residents have signed petitions to block the project, citing concerns that the coal trains would cause pollution from coal dust and create traffic congestion. Three other coal export projects — two in Washington and one in Oregon — are still on the table
01 May 2013:
Program Targeting Diesel
Emissions Will Be Cut by 70 Percent
A federal program that has cleaned up or removed 50,000 high-polluting diesel engines from U.S. roads is scheduled to be cut by 70 percent under President Barack Obama’s latest budget.
The program eliminated 230,000 tons of soot and smog-causing pollutants, slashed more than two million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and saved 205 million gallons of fuel. But the program’s budget has faced steady cuts in recent years, falling from $50 million in fiscal year 2011, to $20 million in 2013, to a proposed $6 million in fiscal year 2014. The diesel cleanup program has succeeded in removing only a fraction of the 11 million dirty, pre-2006 diesel vehicles on the road. But environmentalists say that the program has been successful in helping clean the air in low-income communities that often are situated near ports, highways, and other areas with high diesel traffic.
23 Apr 2013:
Conservation of Forests
Can Prevent Malaria Spread, Study Says
The conservation of woodlands and biodiversity can actually help prevent the spread of malaria
in tropical forests, a new study says. Using a mathematical model of different conditions in a forest region of southeastern Brazil, scientists found that the circulation of the parasite Plasmodium vivax
— which is associated with 80 million to 300 million malaria cases worldwide — is likely to decrease in less developed forests where populations of non-malarial mosquitoes and warm-blooded animals are abundant. While no malaria cases have been reported in 30 years within the biodiverse study area, located in the Atlantic Forest, researchers say a primary malaria mosquito is found nearby. According to their study, published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
, the findings suggest that malarial and non-malarial mosquito populations are likely to compete for blood feeding, and that the animals act as “dead-end reservoirs” of the malaria parasite. “These aspects of biodiversity that can hinder malaria transmission are services provided by the forest ecosystem,” Gabriel Zorello, an epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo and lead researcher of the study, told ScieDev.Net.
18 Apr 2013:
Reducing Short-Lived Pollutants
Could Slow Sea Level Rise, Study Says
Reducing the emissions of four critical pollutants in the coming decades could at least temporarily slow the rate of global warming and reduce projected sea level rise by as much as 50 percent
, according to a new study. Building on previous research that found that reducing the emissions of four short-lived pollutants — tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, black carbon, and methane — could slow the rate of global warming by 50 percent, the new study projects that sea-level rise could, in turn, be reduced by 24 to 50 percent by 2100, depending on the level of emissions cuts. Unlike carbon dioxide, which persists in the atmosphere for centuries, these four pollutants remain in the atmosphere anywhere from a week to a decade, so altering their atmospheric concentrations can have a more immediate effect on the global climate, scientists say. “Society can significantly reduce the threat to coastal cities if it moves quickly on a handful of pollutants,” said Aixue Hu, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change
02 Apr 2013:
Air Pollution Linked to
1.2 Million Chinese Deaths in 2010
Air pollution contributed to the premature deaths of more than 1.2 million people in China in 2010, or about 40 percent of early deaths worldwide caused by dirty air, according to a newly released analysis. The findings, based on data from a study on the distribution and causes of death globally, categorized “ambient particulate matter pollution” as the fourth-leading factor in premature deaths in China, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure, and smoking. Worldwide, air pollution was the seventh-leading cause of premature death, contributing to 3.2 million deaths, according to the study. While the study was published in The Lancet
, a UK-based medical journal, the summary of China statistics was reported at a forum in Beijing, the New York Times says
. The findings come as public outrage grows in China as residents of many cities endure choking air far in excess of safe levels.
27 Mar 2013:
Natural Gas Extraction
Causing More Earthquakes in Netherlands
Extraction of natural gas from the deep soil in a region of the Netherlands has triggered an increase in minor earthquakes, similar to seismic effects that have raised concerns about drilling operations, including hydraulic fracturing, in other countries. While the extraction of gas has occurred for decades in the northern Netherlands, including in the province of Groningen, quakes have become more frequent in the last few years, the New York Times reports
. The region experienced as few as 20 quakes a year before 2011, but there were 18 during the first six weeks of 2013, with some strong enough to cause significant property damage. According to Chiel Seinen, a spokesman for a local gas consortium known as NAM, natural gas extraction has created at least 1,800 faults in the region’s subsoil, although he said the controversial drilling technique known as fracking is not used in the Dutch region. A new study by Columbia University’s Earth Institute found that a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that occurred in Oklahoma in 2011 may have been the largest quake yet
that can be linked to the injection of wastewater as part of an energy extraction project.
22 Mar 2013:
Expansion of Chinese City Poses
Environmental and Safety Risks, Critics Say
An ambitious plan to expand the western Chinese city of Lanzhou into a regional industrial hub is raising concerns over what critics call lax government oversight of the environmental and safety impacts, including worries that it will siphon huge amounts of water from an already parched region
and devastate nearby mountains. Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, is a city of 3.6 million and a gateway to Tibet and the Xinjiang region. It is known as one of the most polluted cities in China, and now the government is working to expand the city’s footprint by at least 70 percent, according to Caixin Online
. That expansion involves the flattening of mountaintops, and the additional 1 million people and increased industrial activity will draw water from the already polluted and over-stressed Yellow River. Opponents of the plan say buildings will also be constructed on loose soil that will be vulnerable to collapse. “It was a rash decision to begin construction on the new city before receiving environmental approvals or seeking opinions from the Lanzhou public,” said Zhao Zhong, a local activist.
18 Mar 2013:
New Chinese Premier
Vows To Tackle Pollution With ‘Iron Fist’
China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, has vowed aggressive government action
to curb the rampant pollution that has provoked growing public outrage, saying the country would phase out “backward production
Smog covers Beijing in January
facilities” that have contributed to dangerous health conditions in numerous regions. Speaking at his first press conference, Li said the government would set deadlines to address the public health controversy, exemplified by choking air pollution over Beijing that has kept air quality at dangerous levels
since the beginning of the year. Chronic air pollution problems in major metropolitan areas, coupled with a recent episode in which more than 12,000 rotting pig carcasses
were discovered in a river that provides Shanghai’s drinking water, have triggered growing public protest. While Li offered few specific solutions, he promised “vigorous” efforts to tackle pollution. “We need to face the situation and punish offenders with no mercy and enforce the law with an iron fist,” he said. “We shouldn’t pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment.”
Interview: An Advocate for
Environmental Justice at EPA
Matthew Tejada brings on-the-ground experience to his new job as director of the Office of Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Tejada, 33, took over his EPA post
this month after leading Air Alliance Houston, where he helped organize communities along the Texas Gulf Coast to fight air pollution from chemical plants, oil refineries, and the shipping industry. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Tejada explains how he sees his role at the EPA as an advocate for environmental justice, a concept that first emerged in the 1980s and focuses on the pollution burdens often placed on poor and minority neighborhoods. Tejada tells e360
why he thinks his work as a community advocate will help in his new job, why it is important for environmental organizations to build coalitions with grassroots groups, and how he sees “similarities across environmental justice communities, whether they’re in Puerto Rico or in Kansas.” Read the interview
07 Mar 2013:
Shale Gas Boom Drives
Surge in Propane-Fueled Vehicles
The U.S. satellite TV provider DISH Network Corporation has announced it will introduce 200 propane-fueled vans
to its fleet in 2013, another sign that propane, like natural gas, is offering an increasingly cost-effective transportation fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel. While there are already more than 13 million propane-fueled vehicles worldwide, propane historically has been considered a niche fuel because of high production costs. But driven by the surge in domestic shale oil and gas production, the wholesale cost of propane is now only about 85 cents per gallon — about half of 2011 costs. And while the vehicles cost about 10 percent more than diesel-fueled trucks, propane-fueled trucks ultimately can save $50,000 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle, according to Reuters. In addition, DISH officials say their new propane-fueled vans will reduce the fleet’s overall emissions of carbon dioxide by 12.5 million pounds
over the lifetime of the vehicles. According to Pike Research, sales of natural gas-fueled vehicles are projected to increase 10 percent annually
through 2019 while propane-fueled vehicles are expected to climb 8 percent per year.
26 Feb 2013:
Major U.S. Utility Will Close
Three Coal-Burning Plants in Midwest
One of the U.S.’s largest electric utilities has agreed to close three coal-fired power plants
in the Midwest, the latest sign of how the U.S.'s electricity supply is shifting away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. American Electric Power (AEP) will shut down the three plants in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky by 2015 — retiring a total of 2,011 megawatts of coal-burning capacity — and replace some of the power generation with wind and solar investments in Indiana and Michigan. According to the agreement, which settles a lawsuit originally filed in 1999 over the environmental costs of pollution that drifts east from the plants, the Ohio-based company will also spend $5 billion to install pollution-control technologies at its aging coal-burning plants in the eastern U.S. and cut its annual sulfur dioxide emissions from 828,000 tons to 174,000 tons within 12 years. With the latest shut-downs, utilities have now closed or announced the closing of 142 coal-burning plants since 2010.
25 Feb 2013:
Labor Capacity To Fall as World
Gets Warmer, More Humid, U.S. Study Says
Increasingly warm and humid conditions that are predicted in the coming decades could slash worker productivity 10 percent worldwide
by mid-century and could eliminate worker capacity altogether in some regions during the hottest months, a new U.S. study predicts. In an analysis of labor capacity based on existing military and industrial heat stress standards, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the amount of work that people can do in some regions has already dropped by 10 percent over the last six decades and that the lost labor capacity could double by 2050 based on global warming projections. According to their analysis, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, a temperature increase of 6 degrees C (11 degrees F) would “eliminate all labor capacity in the hottest months in many areas,” including the U.S.’s lower Mississippi Valley. “This planet will start experiencing heat stress that’s unlike anything experienced today,” Ronald Stouffer, co-author of the study, told Reuters
. According to the study, temperature increases must be limited to less than 3 degrees C (5 F) to maintain labor capacity in all areas during the hottest months.