Australia is one of the warmest continents, and is particularly at risk of more frequent heat waves as a result of global warming. Negative impacts of heat can include accidents due to concentration lapses, and lower productivity due to impaired decision-making or fatigue. A new study has revealed that worker productivity lost due to heat stress cost Australia some US$6.2 billion (5.6 billion euros) in 2013/14.
The study was done in a particularly hot period in Australian history. 2013 was the warmest year on record and 2014 the third warmest. As part of the study, 1,726 working Australians aged 18 to 65 years took a productivity questionnaire. 75% of the respondents said they were affected by heat at the workplace over a 12-month period. 70% said heat had made them less productive on at least one day in the previous 12 months, and 7% said they had been absent from work at least one day.
Based on data obtained from this survey, a team of international researchers calculated the annual cost of absenteeism and impaired performance due to heat at $655 per person. The team wrote, "This represents an annual economic burden of around $6.2 billion for the Australian workforce. This amounts to 0.33-0.47% of Australia's GDP. The findings suggest that adaptation measures to reduce heat effects should be adopted widely if severe economic impacts from labor productivity loss are to be avoided if heat waves become as frequent as predicted."
Australia 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 due to fossil fuel burning. The agreement is to be sealed at a global summit in Paris in December, and will take effect from 2020.
The study is published in the Nature Climate Change