UN Report: Over 70% of Global Workers Exposed to Excessive Heat Due to Climate Change

The ILO warns that over 70% of the world's workforce faces excessive heat exposure due to climate change, posing severe health risks and economic consequences. Governments and businesses must act to protect workers on the frontline of the climate crisis.

Salman Khan
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UN Report: Over 70% of Global Workers Exposed to Excessive Heat Due to Climate Change

UN Report: Over 70% of Global Workers Exposed to Excessive Heat Due to Climate Change

The United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) has issued a sobering warning that more than 70% of the world's workforce, amounting to over 2.4 billion workers, are likely to face excessive heat exposure during their careers as a result of climate change. The ILO report, titled "Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate," highlights the severe health hazards posed to workers by rising temperatures and extreme weather events.

According to the report, the number of workers exposed to excessive heat has increased by 34.7% between 2000 and 2020. The ILO estimates that heat stress alone is responsible for 22.85 million occupational injuries, 18,970 deaths, and 2.09 million disability-adjusted life years annually. In addition to heat-related illnesses, the report cites a growing link between climate change and various other health problems for workers, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues, and mental health concerns.

Why this matters: The ILO's findings emphasize the pressing need for governments and businesses to take action to protect workers from the increasingly severe impacts of climate change. As the workplace becomes the frontline in the climate crisis, safeguarding the health and well-being of workers is not only a moral imperative but also essential for maintaining productivity and economic stability.

The report highlights several other climate change-related hazards that pose significant risks to workers. It is estimated that 1.6 billion workers are exposed to ultraviolet radiation, leading to nearly 19,000 deaths per year from non-melanoma skin cancer. The same number of workers are exposed to workplace air pollution, resulting in up to 860,000 work-related deaths among outdoor workers annually. Agricultural workers, numbering over 870 million, are likely exposed to pesticides, with more than 300,000 deaths attributed to pesticide poisoning each year.

The ILO emphasizes that existing occupational safety and health protections are struggling to keep pace with the increasing risks posed by climate change. The organization is calling on governments to enact policies and update legislation to shield workers from these hazards. Some countries have already taken steps to address the issue, such as implementing new protections for workers during intense periods of heat and banning outdoor work during the hottest hours of the day.

Key Takeaways

  • Over 70% of global workforce faces excessive heat exposure due to climate change
  • Heat stress causes 22.85M injuries, 18,970 deaths, and 2.09M disability-adjusted life years
  • Climate change also linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues, mental health
  • 1.6B workers exposed to UV radiation, 860,000 deaths from air pollution annually
  • Governments urged to update policies and legislation to protect workers from climate risks