More than 800 million jobs, about a quarter of the global workforce, are highly vulnerable to being affected by climate change, from extreme weather conditions to the impacts of the transition to a low-carbon economy, according to the report.
A new report has given a bleak view of the impacts of global climate change on national economies, revealing that the countries responsible for the most historical emissions may well be the lightest. According to the study, the US, Western Europe and Australia appear to have jobs less affected by climate disruption.
These changes will contribute to the decline of emissions-intensive industries and associated jobs as new technologies and active and emerging industries are developed to disrupt that activity. This will have major ongoing impacts on the workforce everywhere.
The employment dividend represents the additional level of total employment in an economy compared to a passive transition path. The analysis shows that the global economy and the workforce that generates it requires support, or an active transition, to achieve net-zero emissions and offset the costs of the transition.
According to the Deloitte Economics Institute’s analysis, more than 800 million jobs worldwide—around one-quarter of the global workforce today—are highly vulnerable to both climate extremes and economic transition impacts.
As the threat of climate change increases globally, living conditions will become increasingly precarious around the world. In addition to the direct environmental and human impacts of rising sea levels, extreme weather, and damaged ecosystems, this will have a knock-on impact on the way the global economy works. With livelihoods suddenly in jeopardy, how the world chooses to deal with climate refugees will become one of the key issues of the coming era.
Forcibly displaced by weather-related events
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an annual average of 21.5 million people have already been forcibly displaced by weather-related events, such as floods, storms, forest fires and extreme temperatures, since 2008.
These numbers are expected to increase and will explode in the coming decades, with the international think tank IEP predicting that 1.2 billion people could be displaced worldwide by 2050, due to climate change and natural disasters. If this were not already the case, that level of displacement would render the current immigration practices of the Western world unfit for purpose.
Illustrating what may be one of the main driving forces behind climate refugees, a new Deloitte study shows that a quarter of the global workforce could face employment vulnerability due to climate change. That represents more than 800 million jobs.
But the impacts of climate change will not be evenly distributed. Many of the world’s poorest nations are already facing major upheavals. The islands of Asia and the Asia Pacific are increasingly prone to flooding, while countries in Africa are battling historic droughts at an unprecedented rate. These regions will see the highest level of labour vulnerability, according to Deloitte.
Meanwhile, some historical polluters, such as the UK and Western Europe, have been emitting carbon emissions since the industrial revolution, often burning resources extracted from today’s “poorest countries” through imperialism, and therefore both played a leading role in man-made climate change. But it seems they will be less affected by the vulnerability of the workforce.
As such, along with countries such as Australia and the US, these countries are likely to become hubs for refugees seeking economic security in the face of climate disruption.
How climate changes the future of work
Economic growth and development are all about dynamics. As economies grow and evolve over time, they are shaped by history, natural endowments, the ingenuity of people, and the constant effort of policymakers, businesses, and individuals to keep improving.
But economic growth and improved living standards are not guaranteed. As economies evolve globally, there can be no complacency in getting the right mix of factors for equitable and sustainable economic growth.
Climate change, and the global response to it, is a fundamental factor in getting good economic growth right. Deloitte’s analysis at The Turning Point has shown that runaway climate change, in which global average temperatures rise by 3°C, slows growth in all regions. By 2070, mounting global economic losses could amount to US$178 trillion (in present value terms), a future that would be marked by significant declines in productivity, job creation, living standards, and well-being.
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