Too Hot to Work: New Map Tools and 433 Congressional District Fact Sheets Show What’s at Stake for Outdoor Workers

August 20, 2021 | 12:50 pm
Kristy Dahl
Principal Climate Scientist

Two new interactive map tools based on data from the new Union of Concerned Scientists report, Too Hot to Work: Assessing the Threats Climate Change Poses to Outdoor Workers, let you explore how extreme heat is expected to increasingly impact outdoor workers’ work time and earnings in your area as a result of global warming. Our county-level map tool provides a wealth of data for every county in the contiguous US. And by using our congressional district map tool, you can download district-specific fact sheets in English or Spanish that show the risks your district faces.

This post explains how to use these two tools and provides some ideas for bringing this information to your local elected officials.

Explore how climate change would impact outdoor workers with our county-level map tool

Here are a few ways to use the county-level tool:

  1. Explore data on who is working outdoors

    The roughly 32 million people in the United States whose livelihoods depend on being outdoors include people who plant and harvest our food, fix our roads and bridges, deliver our packages, maintain our parks, and perform countless other tasks that keep our society functioning. You can use the map to look at how many outdoor workers there are in each county, what percentage of the local workforce they comprise, and the occupations in which they work. For example, in Okeechobee County, Florida, 40 percent of the workforce is employed in outdoor occupations.

2. Explore workdays and earnings at risk due to extreme heat

Putting projections of the heat index, or “feels like” temperature together with recommendations from the CDC on how to reduce work time on hot days, we calculated the amount of work time outdoor workers could lose at mid- and late-century under different global warming scenarios. For example, by late century, if we fail to reduce global heat-trapping emissions, outdoor workers in Okeechobee County, Florida, are at risk of losing 64 workdays per year on average and as much as 25 percent of their annual earnings as a result of extreme heat.

You can also explore the potential benefits of rapid emissions cuts, shifting outdoor work to cooler times of day, and/or reducing physical workloads. However, because there are practical limits to and potential tradeoffs associated with shifting work schedules or reducing physical workloads, cutting emissions remains the first line of defense against future extreme heat. As an example, in Okeechobee County, Florida, if all outdoor work could be shifted to cooler times of day, outdoor workers would experience fewer lost workdays and less of their earnings would be at risk.

3. Explore the demographics of the outdoor workforce

Despite comprising just over 30 percent of the general population, people identifying as Black, African American, Hispanic, or Latino make up about 40 percent of the outdoor workforce. That means that the impacts of more frequent, more intense heat will disproportionately fall on the shoulders of workers who already experience inequities built up from centuries of systemic racism. With these maps, you can look at the demographics of the outdoor workforce in each state. In Florida, for example, more than 60 percent of the jobs in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations are held by people identifying as Hispanic or Latino.

Get the facts to your elected officials with our congressional district tool

Political delay is costing outdoor workers their lives. Employers and elected officials have a responsibility to act now to steeply reduce heat-trapping emissions and ensure workers are treated with dignity and guaranteed these basic rights and health safeguards. 

This tool and these fact sheets are a way you can help build that political will and momentum.

Using the tool is simple. Clicking on any Congressional district in the contiguous United States will bring up a pop-up window with a link to download a district-specific fact sheet. The first page of each fact sheet showcases district-specific projections for workdays and earnings at risk, both with and without rapid action to reduce heat-trapping emissions. Page two highlights nationwide results from the Too Hot to Work report and outlines a set of commonsense policies that local, state, and federal decision makers could enact to reduce heat-trapping emissions and protect workers from dangerous heat conditions.

Getting local information about future extreme heat is as easy as finding your location on a map, clicking on your district, and downloading the fact sheet. Fact sheets are available in English and Spanish. Each fact sheet has its own unique graphic with district-specific information.

Here are four ways you can take this information to the elected officials and those seeking election (think congressional representatives, mayors, county commissioners…) in your district—and ask them what they’re going to do about it:

  1. Reach out on social media. If you’re on Twitter, tweet at the officials or candidates in your district. Include a key fact or two on outdoor workers or extreme heat in your district, link to the map or fact sheet, and ask them what their plans are to address the issue. Make sure you include your elected officials’ or candidates’ Twitter handles in your tweet so that they or their staff see it. Consider also including #ClimateChange, #OutdoorWorkers, or another hashtag of your choice so it’s seen by a broader online community.

  2. If you’re on Facebook, follow your representatives’ or other public figures’ Facebook pages and comment on posts that can be connected to the risks of extreme heat (heat waves occurring in your area, public health risks, etc.), or create your own Facebook post highlighting the risks to your Congressional district and share it.

  3. Attend a forum or event. Ask your representatives or candidates about their plans for keeping outdoor workers safe in the face of extreme heat. Cite the facts about how the worktime and earnings at risk due to heat for outdoor workers. Because solving this problem will require all hands to be on deck, ask about representatives’ plans to advocate for reductions in global warming emissions at the federal level.

  4. Get in touch directly. You can also email your representatives and candidates directly. The official web sites for most candidates includes ‘Contact Us’ information, which typically provides an email form, address, or other way to write directly to the person you’d like to reach.

  5. Write a letter to the editor for your local paper. Candidates and elected officials monitor local news sources, so writing a letter to the editor (LTE) can be a great way to let them know about the issues that are important to you and your community, including extreme heat and workers’ rights. And including specific statistics about the dangers workers are facing in the next few decades can help your LTE pack an extra punch and make it more likely to be published.

    Papers don’t publish every LTE they receive, but your chances are better if you’re writing one in response to an article the paper already published. You do have to be quick in your response—you don’t want days to go by between the original article and your LTE. But the good news is that LTEs are usually required to be 200 words or less, or 1 to 2 paragraphs, so the writing usually goes pretty quickly. Check with your paper about its specific requirements when it comes to submitting LTEs.

We hope that you find these new tools useful and look forward to hearing how you’re using them.