This study uses five impact models that describe observed relationships between labour productivity and temperature, with climate model simulations from five climate models under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), i.e. 25 climate-impact model combinations, to assess the impact of climate change on outdoor and indoor labour productivity respectively, at the national-scale, across Europe. This is the first assessment to use multiple impact models with multiple climate models and to consider the potential effects of adaptation on lowering the impacts relative to no adaptation taking place.
Impacts are estimated for the end of century (2071-2100) and near-term (2021-2050), relative to present-day (1981-2010). Impacts are also estimated under a mitigation scenario, where global-mean warming is 2°C relative to pre-industrial. Impacts are assessed with and without adaptation respectively. Planned adaptation is represented as an adjustment in work activities following recommendations by the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration to consider the adjustment of work shifts during hot periods – all labour takes place at night instead of day-time, under the adaptation assumption.
Without climate change mitigation and adaptation, daily average outdoor labour productivity could decline by around 10-15% from present-day levels in several southern European countries by the end of the century (Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Portugal, Spain and Turkey). Countries in northern Europe could also see declines in daily average outdoor labour productivity but the declines are considerably smaller than for the southern countries, at around 2-4% (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway and Sweden). The magnitude of impact on indoor labour productivity is generally 2-4 percentage points lower than for impacts on outdoor labour productivity, for the three most sensitive impact models, while for the two least sensitive impact models, the differences are smaller.
There is uncertainty in the magnitude of projected climate change impacts on labour productivity due to: 1) differences in the projections of climate between different climate models; and 2) the use of different impact models. Both sources of uncertainty are significant. The range in projected impacts due to using multiple climate models is comparable to the range in impacts from using multiple impact models with only one climate model.
Adaptation and mitigation have the potential to significantly lessen the impacts of climate change on declines in labour productivity across Europe.
For some countries the impacts can be up to around 10 percentage points lower with adaptation than without, for some climate-impact model combinations, at the end of the century under high emissions (e.g. Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey). However, the declines in daily average outdoor labour productivity could still be around 5% relative to present-day in these countries (and up to 10% for Greece, with one climate-impact model combination). Whilst the potential benefits of adaptation are clear from this assessment, it is important to be aware of the caveats associated with the adaptation modelling approach employed. These include an assumption of the entire work force engaged in moderate to heavy labour shifting to night-time working, acknowledgment that night-time working can be associated with negative health effects, and potentially higher costs of night-time working due to energy requirements for lighting and higher wages for working unsocial hours. Such a change in working practices is optimistic, but not implausible, since currently around 20% of workers in Europe are employed on shift work involving night work.
Limiting global warming to below 2°C (and assuming no adaptation) could avoid a substantial proportion of impacts in the European countries that see the largest impacts without mitigation (Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Portugal, Spain and Turkey). With some climate-impact model combinations the declines in labour productivity can be up to 10 percentage points lower in these countries with mitigation when compared to without mitigation