An insightful report from the Union of Concerned Scientists was released in August 2021. Using U.S. Census Data, the researchers calculated workdays and earnings at risk in the future from climate changes. The analysis shows that given slow or no action to reduce global heat-trapping emissions, increases in extreme heat would cause a three- to four-fold increase in the number of days the Center for Disease Control classifies as too dangerous for outdoor work. Additionally, with no action to reduce global emissions, more than 7.1 million U.S. workers would lose 10 percent or more of their earnings.
Map: Where Extreme Heat Will Make Construction More Dangerous
Earth's hottest month since record-keeping began 142 years ago was July 2021. Heat-induced wildfires raged in Siberia, an area typically known for colder temperatures. The UK's Office of National Statistics estimates that Northern Ireland's heatwave contributed to 400 to 800 excess deaths. And homes actually melted in the United States' Pacific Northwest.
The increase in extreme temperatures is concerning for everyone, but perhaps no more so than for those that peform their work while exposed to the elements. That includes construction workers.
Released within the report, Too Hot to Work: Assessing the Threats Climate Change Poses to Outdoor Workers, were several maps that represent "original analysis that quantifies the health and economic impacts of extreme heat on the outdoor workers in a changing climate."
Courtesy of Union of Concerned Scientists
There are over 7 million people employed in construction in the United States in 2021, accounting for between 3-6 percent of total employment in each state. Outdoor work is required for 91.5 percent of construction professionals, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics.
Clearly the cost for failing to reduce carbon emissions (or failing to reduce them quickly enough) in the coming years will be severe. While there are numerous safety measures in place for construction workers who face dangerously high levels of heat and humidity, here at Constructible, we believe that making construction sustainable now will be key to keeping construction professionals safe and prosperous in the future.
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Further Reading: How to Take Action on Construction Sustainability Now