70% of world's workers at elevated health risks due to climate change, UN report finds

A new UN report attributes hundreds of thousands deaths to climate change impacts on the world's workforce

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published April 23, 2024 12:54PM (EDT)

Exhausted construction worker (Getty Images/FG Trade)
Exhausted construction worker (Getty Images/FG Trade)

More than two out of three workers on Earth are going to experience climate change-related health risks in the near future, according to a recent report from the United Nations. The UN's International Labour Organization (ILO) found that many of the environmental conditions caused by global warming are already negatively impacting workers and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The report listed dangerous environmental conditions such as extreme heat, extreme weather events, air pollution and UV radiation from the Sun.

Presently there are roughly 18,970 people who are die every year on the job because of excessive heat, more than 860,000 people who die from exposure to air pollution and nearly 19,000 people who die from non-melanoma skin cancer from exposure to solar radiation. The authors even found that more than 26.2 million people suffer from chronic kidney disease because of workplace heat stress. They conclude that the world's countries will need to revise their labor protection laws to protect the working class.

"As climate change hazards evolve and intensify, it will be necessary to re-evaluate existing legislation or create new regulations and guidance," the authors write. "Some worker populations may be especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change and could therefore need extra protections."

In an official statement accompanying the report, contributor Manal Azzi said that the ILO's conclusions are consistent with its broader mission of upholding human rights. "Working in safe and healthy environments is recognized as one of the ILO’s fundamental principles and rights at work," Azzi said. "We must deliver on that commitment in relation to climate change, just as in every other aspect of work.” 

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