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Study Predicts Climate Change Could Slash India’s Labor Productivity To 40% By 2100

The maximum work capacity achievable by individuals in a cool climate was used as the benchmark for the study, representing 100 per cent physical work capacity 

 A recent study published in Global Change Biology highlights the potential detrimental impact of climate change on labour productivity in countries like India and Pakistan. The research indicates a forecasted drop in labour productivity by as much as 40 per cent by the year 2100, posing a threat to global food production.

The study, employing computational models to predict physical work capacity (PWC) under varying climate change scenarios, reveals that regions in Southeast and South Asia, West and Central Africa and northern South America could experience a reduction in physical work capacity to 70 per cent due to climate change. Agricultural workers engaged in essential tasks such as planting, tilling and harvesting face increased heat exposure, diminishing their ability to work in the fields.

Based on data from over 700 heat stress trials, encompassing diverse temperature and humidity conditions and varying weather elements like sunshine and wind, the models utilised the maximum work capacity achievable in a cool climate as the benchmark, representing 100 per cent physical work capacity.

Reductions in capacity imply limitations on individuals’ physical capabilities, even with the motivation to work. This could result in the need for additional workers in agriculture or, if unavailable, a reduction in crop sizes. The study underscores the challenges faced by agricultural workers, with an estimated half of the world’s cropland farmers operating below 86 per cent capacity in recent past climate conditions.

In exploring potential adaptations to mitigate the impact on agricultural workers, the study suggests alternatives such as transitioning to night-time or shaded work to reduce direct solar radiation. This adaptation could lead to a five to ten per cent improvement in worker productivity. Another proposed solution involves a global increase in mechanical machinery and equipment use, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where prevalent agricultural practices heavily rely on strenuous physical labour.

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