Sunday, November 27, 2022

Six ways climate change is making poor people poorer

The heat waves that lashed South Asia this year have not only dampened the strength of the people. They siphon off people’s finances in ways that aren’t always obvious.

This is one of the ways climate change is weighing on the economy and making poor people poorer.

“These effects are global, they are clear, and they are persistent,” said Tejat Garg, an economist at the University of California-San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy.

South Asia is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change-driven heat waves. But temperature extremes are becoming more common around the world as the planet warms.

1. Too Hot to Work

March and April were the hottest or hottest months on record across South Asia.

According to the UK Met Office, climate change has made this heat wave almost 100 times more likely.

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The summer has been brutal for farmers, construction workers and anyone who works outside. This is about half the workforce in South Asia.

“Daily workers like us work despite the heat,” Indian construction worker Kushilal Mandal told Agence France-Presse in April. “If we don’t work, we won’t be able to eat.”

At these temperatures, heatstroke and even death are real risks.

Many workplaces close early. But that means lost wages.

The UN International Labor Organization says that in 2030, the hours lost in heat worldwide will equal at least 80 million full-time jobs lost.

2. Low earnings for outside work

It doesn’t take a full work break to hurt workers’ pay. People can’t do that much when it’s hot.

In a study co-authored by Garg, those working in hot, sunny environments in Indonesia were 8% less productive than those in shady environments about 3 degrees cooler. Doubling wages did not increase productivity.

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“It’s not about workers feeling icky or lazy or like, ‘I don’t want to work because it’s hot,'” Garg said. “It is such that the heat is representing binding constraints on workers’ ability to do their jobs.”

3. Factory meltdown

Heat affects workers, even if they are not doing the labor themselves. High temperatures also slow down factory workers.

World Bank economist Patrick Behrer said, “We think of manufacturing as something that happens inside. But inside doesn’t mean protected from heat. It doesn’t mean air conditioning.”

Studies as far back as 1915 show that factory workers earn less at higher temperatures. Even call center workers work less in hot conditions.

File - A Boy Jumps Into The River Ganges On A Hot Summer Day In Prayagraj, India, May 27, 2020.  South Asia Is Particularly Vulnerable To The Effects Of Climate Change-Induced Heat Waves.

FILE – A boy jumps into the river Ganges on a hot summer day in Prayagraj, India, May 27, 2020. South Asia is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change-induced heat waves.

“It’s hard for you to pay attention. It’s hard for you to focus. You get tired more easily,” Behrer said. “All those things feed through a reduction in productivity.”

4. Workplace Injuries

There may be a risk of exceeding the salary.

“Because you’re paying less attention to what you’re doing or you’re more tired, you’re more likely to injure yourself,” Behrer said.

Behrer and colleagues found in one study that on very hot days, workers were about 10% more likely to be injured on the job than on a cold day.

This could mean a loss of wages for the day, or it could be more serious. “If you get hurt at work, it can be a permanent change in your life,” Behrer said.

6. Poverty Trap

Researchers have found that poorer regions are more vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures than richer regions. Workers are in industries that are exposed to overheating. And poor people often can’t afford air conditioning. These inequalities are expected to worsen with global warming.

Higher temperatures also reduce crop yields, which reduce household incomes in large-scale agricultural economies such as South Asia.

Children from these rural families can be impacted. Garg and colleagues found that students score lower on math and reading tests after a hot year, perhaps because their families have less money to spend on education, or even food or health. were.

File - Children Returning From School Walk Through A Dry Pond On A Hot Summer Day On The Outskirts Of Jammu, India.  May 30, 2019.  With Heat Waves Becoming More Common, The Demand For Safety-Mesh Programs Is Increasing.

FILE – Children returning from school walk through a dry pond on a hot summer day on the outskirts of Jammu, India. May 30, 2019. With heat waves becoming more common, the demand for safety-mesh programs is increasing.


Societies can adapt to warmer temperatures. For example, factories can buy air conditioning.

But they won’t spend that money on better equipment or hiring more workers, Garg said.

“Customization isn’t free. It’s expensive. It’s expensive,” he said. “And in general we find that the poorer you are, the more expensive it is.”

Social Safety Net programs can help. For example, Garg and colleagues conducted a study in India focused on a safety net program that supplemented income in rural areas. Since the heat waves did not affect the budgets of farmer families as much, the effect of the heat on the test scores of the students was less.

With heat waves becoming more common, the demand for safety-mesh programs is increasing.

“Countries are already paying for climate change,” Garg said, “because the demand for social security is increasing rapidly as we get more and more warm days.”

“When we think about climate investment, [typically] We are thinking of sea walls and green energy. And this is all very important. But… the safety net [programs] The lower and middle income groups are going to play a bigger role.”


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