Article image

Climate change will hurt Chinese manufacturing

For years, the Chinese manufacturing sector received criticism and blame for its impact on the environment, polluting rivers and releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, China has made a concerted effort to clean up its act. 2017 will mark its fourth consecutive year of zero growth or a decline in emissions.

What is less known are the effects that climate change will have on the manufacturing industry, not only for the workers in factory environments, but also on factory machinery and technology.

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara has found that that climate change will lower output for the manufacturing sector in China.

The researchers note that previous studies often revolved around productivity as it related to employees in the manufacturing sector. A rise in global temperatures will make for hostile working conditions in many manufacturing plants.

“Previous work has largely focused on how climate change may affect economic activity by lowering the productivity of workers,” said Kyle Meng, co-author. “It is well documented that when it’s hot, people work less productively.”

For this study, the researchers focused on the effects that climate change and warming temperatures will have on machinery as well as workers, showing that warm temperatures will also put a strain on the factory machinery and technology, which reduces efficiency.

For the study, the researchers analyzed production data from a half-million Chinese manufacturing plants from 1998 to 2007.

The research team then estimated how temperatures might impact productivity and output.

The results of the study show that climate change could reduce manufacturing output in China by 12 percent annually, which is equal to about 40 billion dollars.

Twelve percent might not seem like much, but considering that China’s manufacturing sector produces 32 percent of the national GDP and supplies twelve percent of the world’s imports, those numbers will have a significant impact on the global economy.

According to the results, even in high-tech industries where temperatures are controlled in manufacturing plants, climate change would still have an impact.

For the study, the researchers classify high-tech industries as those that make medical supplies or computer equipment.

“We typically think of these sectors as being capital intensive with indoor production facilities that tend to operate with air conditioning,” said Olivier Deschenes, a co-author of the study. “We find that these industries are just as sensitive to extreme temperature as low-tech industries.”

The study shows the importance of factoring in all aspects of the manufacturing sector, including machinery, when looking at ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.

By Kay Vanette, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day