Chaeuron Spinks (8) and Audrey Hardie (6) beat the 100 degree heat by keeping cool in a waterfall at the City Garden in St. Louis on July 5, 2022. Increasing instances of extreme heat could damage the global economy and increase health risk to people living in urban areas, according to new research published Wednesday focusing on 231 major Chinese cities. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
July 6 (UPI) -- Increasing instances of extreme heat could damage the global economy and increase health risk to people living in urban areas, according to research published Wednesday.
The results, published in the journal Nature Communications, find heat-induced loss of labor will be unevenly distributed across different employment industries.
That uneven distribution could create "environmental justice concerns," according to researchers at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health.
"Heat-induced labor loss is a major economic cost related to climate change," according to the study.
Researchers investigated heat-induced labor loss across 231 Chinese cities using heat stress data modeled with a regional climate model.
"Urban heat stress could create significant labor losses in 231 Chinese big cities in future climate warming conditions, which could cause what equates to $5.11-5.82 billion in additional losses per year by the middle of this century. This is more than double the present value of $2.11 billion," wrote study co-author Yuqiang Zhang, a climate scientist in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the Gillings School.
"Unfortunately, economic losses in these urban areas are mainly borne by those who work outdoors and for low wages, such as those in construction and manufacturing, thus bringing damages to city development by deepening income inequality."
The study's authors expect more people in urban areas to be exposed to heat as city populations continue to grow, along with a rising average global temperature -- people working outside will be disproportionately affected.
Researches expect "market costs due to future warming-induced labor losses are projected to reach 5.11 ± 0.49 billion U.S. dollars and 5.82 ± 0.55 billion U.S. dollars per year in all urban grids (in China) by the 2050s, more than double the value in the 2010s."
The study points out that in China, more than 70% of the country's projected population increase will occur in urban areas.
"Urban heat stress is more relevant to sectors involving more outdoor work and lower pay, such as construction and manufacturing, than to other sectors, the distribution of the economic damage due to future urban warming raises environmental justice concerns," researchers wrote in the study.