Bangladesh lost an estimated Tk1 trillion between 2001 and 2020 due to lost labour induced by climate change, which is about 5.5% of the country's GDP every year.
The estimates were made in a study by researchers at Duke University published in the "Environmental Research Letters" journal last Thursday (13 January).
The country lost an estimated 32 billion hours of labour— an average of 567 hours per person— every year during the studied period due to high heat, according to researchers.
Heat, especially when combined with humidity, can slow people down when they're performing heavy work such as in agriculture or construction. As the climate heats up further due to greenhouse gas emissions, every fraction of a degree of warming is causing more work time to be lost for heat-related reasons.
Over the last four decades, heat-related labour losses have increased by at least 9%—more than 60 billion hours annually— as global average temperatures rose about 0.4°C because of human activities.
For Bangladesh, the heat-related labour productivity loss in the last 19 years has worsened drastically due to the impacts of climate change— Tk94 billion per year worse than between 1981-2001. Also, the loss in the last two decades is worth an estimated Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of $26 billion labour productivity loss annually.
Researchers fear the loss will only increase due to continuous global warming, further resulting in a higher loss of economic productivity.
Hence, without rapid emissions cuts, climate change is set to further enhance losses in already hot countries, and historically cooler countries will start to see more significant labour losses.
Luke Parsons from Duke University, who is also the lead author of the report, said, "Strikingly, if outdoor workers are losing productivity at the current temperature and humidity levels, then almost three-quarters of the global working-age population, or about 4 billion people, are already living in locations with background climate conditions associated with heavy labour losses of at least 100 hours/person/year, or about a week of heat-associated lost work,"
"Outdoor heat exposure associated with noticeable labour losses in the summer months isn't something we need to wait until mid-century to experience- it's already here for many people working outdoors in the summer months," he added.
Globally, humid heat currently causes 677 billion hours of lost labour worth $2.1 trillion annually.
According to the Duke University study, some countries are especially badly affected by heat-related labour losses and suffer from higher economic costs. Using the Lancet Countdown, researchers estimated that India currently loses around 259 billion hours of labour annually due to the impacts of humid heat, more than double the previous estimates and worth an estimated PPP $266 billion of labour productivity per year, while the USA loses PPP $22 billion.
"These results imply that we don't have to wait for 1.5°C of global warming to experience impacts of climate change on labour and the economy – the warming we've already experienced may be associated with large-scale background labour losses," said Duke.