Extreme Heat Now Costs Dhaka 8% of Annual Economic Output, Garment Manufacturing Shows Significant & Growing Losses by 2050

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council released "Hot Cities, Chilled Economies: Impacts of Extreme Heat on Global Cities," a new report detailing the social and economic effects of climate-driven extreme heat through the prism of 12 cities, spanning six continents, covering an urban population of more than 123 million.

The study—undertaken in partnership with Vivid Economics–revealed that heat stress in Dhaka impairs labor productivity more than any other city in our study, with losses currently amounting to around BDT 510 billion—comparable in real terms to estimates of the total economic losses to the whole of Bangladesh from the one-in-a-hundred-year flooding in 2004—and estimated to increase to over BDT 1 trillion by 2050 without adaptation, using conservative growth assumptions.

"Climate-driven heat is changing the way we live and work, yet current awareness of this silent and invisible threat is dangerously insufficient. Heat's disproportionate impact on cities compelled us to quantify and explore the economic and social ramifications of our burning planet," said Kathy Baughman McLeod, SVP and Director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council. "Our hope is that these findings will raise awareness and spur further adaptation interventions, policies, and investment that cool cities and protect people."

Other key findings for Dhaka are as follows:
  • Sectors such as garment manufacturing, transport and retail trade can be particularly affected, impacting not only those who work in the industry, but the global supply chain as a whole.
  • Heat is concentrated in some of the city's poorest districts. In Kamrangirchar, a district containing a high concentration of informal settlements with widespread use of corrugated iron sheet roofing, temperatures are typically 12°C higher than Dhaka's surroundings.

The population of Dhaka is developing innovative individual solutions to adapt to the heat, but the magnitude of the problem calls for a rapid scaling to protect the city's residents and economy. Actions include:

  • Planning/policy: Worker protection projects such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent's FbF solution can be scaled up to provide broad-based social insurance against extreme heat for vulnerable workers.
  • Communications/outreach: There are existing weather forecasts from institutions such as the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, while projects such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent's feasibility study on heat waves are working to formalize locally-relevant and scientifically-backed heat wave definitions that could underpin future public health and safety campaigns.
  • Investment in the built environment and nature-based solutions: The Million Cool Roofs challenge pilot study in Dhaka has achieved significant cooling effects in schools, industrial buildings, and low-quality housing settlements, through using reflective roof paint to reduce indoor temperatures. In one instance, indoor working temperatures at peak heat times dropped by almost 8°C, falling below outdoor temperatures. Further low-cost adaptations are already used by Dhaka residents, particularly in informal communities, including building on stilts to promote air circulation (and improve flood resilience) and establishing natural "green roofs" by allowing creepers to cover iron roofs. Existing street-shading is in high demand as hawkers and commuters both seek shelter from the sun in passenger sheds at bus stops or transit terminals. Trials of vehicles with green roofs have been experimented with in Dhaka as a way of cooling vehicles without the need for air conditioning and to promote awareness of green roof solutions.

For this report, only a subset of the ways in which extreme heat can impact a city's economy and society were examined and appraises impacts in 'normal' vs. unusually warm years, meaning it provides a conservative view of the social and economic costs of heat. It does not look at impacts or costs to infrastructure, health care systems, reduced learning and education, or the loss resulting from business interruption.

The full repot and methodology can be found at https://onebillionresilient.org/hot-cities-chilled-economies-dhaka/

The Adrienne-Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center builds individual and community resilience in the face of climate impacts. We pledge to reach one billion people around the world with resilience solutions to climate change by 2030.

Media Contact: ghenrich-koenis@atlanticcouncil.org