Global warming: Bangladesh loses 7 billion working hours a year

Bangladesh loses 7 billion working hours a year due to exposure to extreme heat caused by global warming, a new study reveals.

If the global temperature increases by 1 degree Celsius, the country could lose around 21 billion working hours, according to the study, conducted by researchers at Duke University in the United States.

He estimates that if the temperature increases by 2 or 4 degrees Celsius, it can result in a loss of 31 or 57 billion working hours per year in the country.

The study also predicted that an additional 1 degree Celsius of global warming could occur by 2037 and an additional 2 degrees Celsius by 2051.

Luke Parsons, a climate researcher at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and colleagues published a peer-reviewed paper titled “Increased Labor Losses and Reduced Adaptive Potential in a Warmer World” based on their study in Nature Communications on December 14 of last year where they presented these results.

“As heat and humidity levels increase throughout the day due to climate change, the options for moving the outdoor workforce to cooler hours will narrow significantly, resulting in significant losses of workforce around the world,” said Luke Parsons, who led the study.

“Unfortunately, many of the countries and people most affected by current and future labor losses are not responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions,” Parsons said.

On a hot summer day in Dhaka, according to the study, the temperature remains between 27 and 28 degrees Celsius.

At this temperature, assuming a 12-hour workday, an average worker loses 10 minutes of working hours due to heat exposure each day.

At the current temperature, Bangladesh loses 254 working hours per person per year due to heat exposure.

The economic impact of such a loss of working hours is also staggering.

At current temperatures, the global economy loses between $280 billion and $311 billion a year due to heat-related lost productivity.

According to the researchers, most of these economic losses occur in low- and middle-income tropical countries like Bangladesh, where large numbers of people are involved in manual labor involving agriculture and construction.

In terms of vulnerability to working hours and loss of productivity due to global warming, Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country in South and Southeast Asia after India and China.

Dr AKM Saiful Islam, a professor at the Institute of Water and Flood Management at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said the study was highly credible and alarming.

“We have already observed that several parts of urban areas like Dhaka and Chattogram turn into urban heat islands where the average temperature becomes 2-3 degrees higher than the country’s average temperature,” he said.

“Most of our workers, such as agricultural workers and other informal workers, work in uncovered environments and must endure exposure to extreme heat. They will dehydrate quickly and heat stress conditions such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps will increase which will reduce their working hours,” Saiful said.

Again, in Bangladesh, humidity also contributes to heat stress.

“We have seen in several studies that under the current conditions of water evaporation, a person cannot stay in one place for more than six hours due to heat and humidity if the temperature exceeds 35 degrees Celsius.

“During recent heat waves, our country’s average temperature has exceeded this limit quite often. And, there is no doubt that such conditions will significantly reduce working hours,” Saiful added.

Saiful suggested several adaptation measures to mitigate productivity loss.

“We must multiply the sheds and green spaces equipped with drinking water points in urban areas where people can rest during the hottest days. We must subsidize agriculture so that farmers can employ workers in two teams especially during sowing and harvesting seasons,” he said.

“We also need to provide all our citizens with universal health insurance coverage so that they can access quality health care anywhere and anytime, which will encourage them to work even in harsh conditions,” Saiful added.

Teresa H. Sadler