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New Study Links Climate Change to Health & Economic Risks of Outdoor Workers

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Union of Concerned Scientists
Only two states in this country currently have permanent and enforceable heat-protection standards on the books for outdoor workers: California and Washington. That means most of the nation's outdoor workers are unprotected, including those in states such as Florida and Texas where extreme heat is a current and rapidly growing risk.

The term “essential worker” became all too familiar at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and among those deemed essential are the individuals who work in extreme outdoor conditions, like those who harvest our food. A new study called “Too Hot to Work, Assessing the Threats Climate Change Poses to Outdoor Workers" from the Union of Concerned Scientists ties climate change and extreme heat to the health and financial risks these essential workers face.

It projects that if no action is taken to reduce emissions by the end of this century, the intense heat will cost Florida’s economy roughly $8 billion in lost work every year. We talk with one of the study’s authors, and a nursing professor at Emory University, to find out just how dangerous Florida heat can be to the safety and livelihood of essential, outdoor workers and our economic future.


  • Dr. Rachel Licker, senior climate scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate and Energy Program, and co-author of “Too Hot to Work, Assessing the Threats Climate Change Poses to Outdoor Workers”
  • Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University

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