Upholding labor productivity with intensified heat stress: Robust planning for adaptation to climate change under uncertainty

Jinxin Zhu, Shuo Wang (Corresponding Author), Dagang Wang, Xueting Zeng, Yanpeng Cai, Boen Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The intensification of heat stress in a changing climate poses great threats to both human health and labor productivity. It is of great practical importance to assess the impacts of climate-induced heat stress on labor productivity and to develop effective adaptation strategies. In this paper, an integrated optimization-based productivity restoration modeling framework is proposed for the first time to develop the optimal policies for adaptation to climate change. To address underlying uncertainties associated with climate and labor management systems, we take into account ensemble projections from five global climate models (GCMs) under two Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5) and inexact system costs. The system costs, including direct and indirect costs such as management costs, energy costs, and labor costs, are presented as interval numbers due to inherent uncertainty caused by population growth, technology development, and other social-economic factors. Uncertain information can be effectively communicated into the optimization processes in this study to generate optimal and reliable decision alternatives. We find that the increased Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) will lead to a large reduction in labor capacities over China except for the Tibetan Plateau under both RCPs by the end of the 21st century. The less developed regions tend to achieve the minimum system cost by having labor productivity recovered through working overtime due to the relatively low cost of overtime. This could result in more heat-related work injuries in the less developed regions. Since the less developed regions are not heat-prone areas in China, the changing climate would be a more dangerous threat and cause more damages to these regions where the residents are less acclimatized to heat stress. Moreover, we obtain a range of minimum system costs from 1.86 to 8.97 billion dollars under RCP2.6 and from 9.42 to 32.31 billion dollars under RCP8.5 (about 0.2% of China's GDP in 2019, 0.01% of China's GDP projected in 2100 under a sustainable socio-economic development scenario) for the restoration of labor productivity in a warming climate. We argue that urgent actions are needed to mitigate global warming impacts on labor productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129083
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Adaptation
  • Climate projection
  • Heat stress
  • Labor productivity
  • Optimization
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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