By Nsikan Akpan
It’s no secret that summer lends itself better to beaches and barbecues than actual work. Yet the instinct to shirk work in hot weather is more than a summer slowdown. It’s a broad phenomena that may cripple some nations as global warming progresses.
A new study from Stanford University has pinpointed the optimal annual temperature for economic productivity, and it’s this: 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 13 degrees Celsius. The researchers show that when the climate exceeds this temperature, the country’s economic output drops precipitously. Based on their model published today in the journal Nature, this pattern has held steady for more than 150 countries, affecting both rich and poor, for more than half a century.
If global warming isn’t checked, the team expects average global incomes will be slashed by a quarter by 2100. So whether you’re an Indonesian rice farmer baking in the hot sun or a tech jockey sitting in a cool Silicon Valley office, you can expect your economic prosperity to decline.
“The results indicate that societies will need to adapt in ways that are likely to be expensive, or [they will] face even greater damages in terms of lost GDP,” said economist Michael Greenstone of the University of Chicago, who wasn’t involved in the project.
Stanford economist Marshall Burke and his colleagues created this new projection for the future by treating 166 countries like patients getting regular health checkups. The team isolated the annual temperatures of each country from 1960 to 2010, and then looked at how that country’s economy performed during each of those years. By comparing warm years to normal years, the team was able to chart how individual economies respond to temperature…
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