From far-reaching wildfires in states that typically don’t get them in the summer to a spike in Category 4 hurricanes in the fall, the devastating repercussions of climate change play out across the country on a regular basis. While weather as a rule is variable, evidenced by the natural changes in air temperatures from seasonality, the data proves that the planet’s temperature is on a steady track higher. Just this past November, for example, the earth logged its ninth warmest November on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Given weather phenomena affect human behavior, it’s fair to say that climate change has both a direct and indirect impact on the supply chain. And according to a new threat assessment, manufacturers may be in the eye of the storm, with increasing heat impeding their productivity.
In a report released by the United Nations, if the earth temperature’s keeps rising at its present pace, then the average U.S. worker in product-based industries will lose approximately 0.4% hours of productivity over the course of a full year. This estimates comes courtesy of the UN’s Human Climate Horizons Project, an initiative that offers insight on how climate change may impede people’s ability to flourish.
Given there are over 8,700 hours in the typical calendar year, a four-tenths of a percent dip in productivity may seem infinitesimal but as climate expert Hannah Hess told Supply Chain Dive, that’s a significant decline in a country of over 350 million people in the world’s largest economy.
“Think of how your workforce responds when it’s super hot outside,” Hess explained. “Here’s how those days are going to multiply over the course of the century. And here’s how that is also projected to have a larger and larger effect over time on your workforce.”
Cold snap leads to delivery delays
It isn’t just oppressive warmth that can reduce output; extreme cold does as well, which many scientists also attribute to climate change. In the days just before Christmas — typically the busiest time of the year for manufacturers, retailers and logistics entities — a polar vortex swept over much of the country, bringing with it freezing temperatures and driving snow. As a result, many recipients expecting packages didn’t get them in the windows they were expected to arrive. Indeed, in the Midwest, on-time delivery performance was just 49% on Dec. 23 and a mere 37% on Christmas Eve, according to project44 data obtained by Supply Chain Dive. Airlines were also impacted by the massive snowstorm, causing thousands of delays and flight cancelations.
The UN report also warned of an uptick in flooding fueled by climate change. Flooding is unique among weather-related events, in that every part of the world is potentially vulnerable to it.
Experts warn the inevitability of the climate crisis necessitates manufacturers to adapt and do everything they can to ramp up production, such as through strategic investments and added staffing. Hess also urged business owners to “do your part” by reducing carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change.