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“Increased CO2 will cause global warming.” This was anticipated in 1856 by the scientist Eunice Newton Foote. The prediction was correct, and if, as we all know today, global warming has disastrous consequences for nature, it is also a threat to certain sectors that suffer the full force of climate change. Firefighters, mussel growers, farmers, restaurant owners, doctors... all have to adapt a little more each year to the hazards of the weather. A closer look at occupations in transition.

Increasing impact on outdoor occupations

Firemen: fighting fire or fighting the climate?


The year 2022 has been particularly deadly for nature, ravaged by fires. In Europe, no less than 700,000 hectares had already gone up in smoke by the end of August. France, Slovenia, Germany, Spain, Romania, Portugal... very few countries have been spared.

However, these incidents, whether a result of criminal activity or negligence, would probably be less numerous if periods of drought, directly linked to global warming, were less frequent.

This type of ecological disaster, even if it has never been seen on such a scale, is not unprecedented. Between floods and fires in natural areas, firefighters, who have been increasingly called upon over the last ten years, have seen their occupation change. 

Better preparation of territories, prevention strategies to be taken by populations, strengthening and reorganisation of firefighter teams, modernisation and expansion of their equipment, development of innovations using new technologies (e.g. firefighting gel, unmanned aerial vehicles, fire alarm system connected to trees, firefighting drones, etc.)... The list is long. 

The whole profession seems destined to undergo major changes in order to adapt to climate constraints. 

Land- and sea-related occupations hard hit

Mussel farming: shellfish, soon to be a luxury product?


Mussel farmers have been seeing the impact of global warming on marine shellfish for 15 years now. Mussel mortality, for example, is rising sharply. This phenomenon is due to the acidification and warming of the ocean, which weakens shellfish. 

In Charente-Maritime (France), 30 to 60% of mussels die prematurely each year, affected by the degradation of their environment. The weakening of the shellfish then forces mussel farmers to renew their workforce and adapt their cultivation methods, for example by putting nets around the stakes so that they do not fall off. 

Sudden changes in seawater temperatures also affect the salinity of the water, which hinders the growth of shellfish. Also, some shellfish predators, which have long been absent, are returning due to the warming of water temperatures.

The French National Institute for Ocean Science (Ifremer) has confirmed that these phenomena are linked to global warming.

Agriculture: extreme weather events destroy crops


According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agricultural crop losses due to droughts and heatwaves have tripled in the last 50 years in Europe.

Natural disasters, which can destroy entire crops if they occur at the wrong time, can even devastate arable land. Degraded soils lose their productivity and can become impractical for agriculture. The IPCC predicts that 8% of current agricultural land could become unsuitable for crops by 2100, perhaps as much as 30% in the worst-case scenario.

Some crops are already being impacted: maize, soybeans, rice and wheat, which are estimated to have lost almost 10% of total cereal production between 1981 and 2010.

Moreover, as some harvests are carried out earlier than usual, the quality of the harvests is deteriorating and the work of farmers is becoming more complicated, as they are forced to adapt the operation of their structures and the management of their employees to these new calendars.

The destruction of crops also means that food has to be imported, leading to higher prices for consumers.

Farmers then take emergency measures to counteract climatic hazards, such as irrigation to combat drought and the installation of warm air systems to counter late frosts. However, these solutions lead to increased consumption of water and fossil fuels.

The implementation of agro-ecological practices is preferable over the long term. For example:

  • Diversify crops by integrating leguminous plants, which allow for a better maintenance of organic matter in the soil.
  • Select the crops most resistant to the new climatic conditions, with the understanding that testing the resilience of species can take several decades.
  • Establish or maintain grasslands and agro-ecological infrastructure on farmland: hedges, streams, trees, etc. and permanent vegetation on plots to protect the soil.
     

These practices allow soils to store water and increase their richness and resilience. They also have the advantage of producing a healthier and more diverse diet and promoting biodiversity.

Beekeeping: the climate, another threat to bees


Global warming is disrupting the activities of bees and other pollinators and preventing them from “working” properly. Heatwaves, cold spells and heavy rainfall prove to be deadly for pollinators as well as for flowers and plants. 

Fewer and fewer flowers to collect means less and less nectar, which is essential for bees to make honey. Without honey, they cannot feed their colonies properly, which is a real danger for them. Weakened and malnourished, they die more easily. It is not uncommon for beekeepers to lose 50% of their hives in a single year.

The latter must therefore increase their efforts: better ventilation and more frequent movement of hives, selection of indigenous bees and additional treatment of pollinators are some of the techniques currently used.

Some more traditional occupations are also affected

Medicine: climate-related consultations


Being a doctor is full of surprises! During a heatwave, for example, the reasons for consultation may differ: care for dehydrated elderly people whose general condition is affected, or sudden aggravations of chronic illnesses, in particular cardiac or respiratory insufficiency, requiring adjustments to treatment and hospitalisation. In hot weather, the general population is prone to insomnia, anxiety disorders and discomfort, especially for people working outdoors.

In addition, heat-related air pollution leads to an increase in allergies. This in turn leads to more respiratory problems, such as asthma, especially in children. Finally, in recent years, a new phenomenon has been on the rise among young people: eco-anxiety. Considered the new “disease of the century”, eco-anxiety encompasses anxiety about climate change, environmental disasters (including the elimination of entire ecosystems and plant and animal species), natural disasters and extreme weather events, global mass pollution, deforestation, sea level rise and global warming. 

Yet health professionals are poorly trained to address these issues and hospitals are only minimally adapting to climate change. It is now necessary for the health sector to implement strategies to adapt to and mitigate global warming and for the future National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PNACC) to take up the health challenge!

Retail: not easy in a flood zone!


The sharp rise in precipitation in some regions is proving to be a major handicap for businesses located on the waterfront.

Each time there is a flood, the businesses affected have to close down to clean up, buy new equipment, reinstall everything, or even rebuild... This can take several months before the business starts up again. These closures are financially damaging, even if insurance covers some of the losses.

It is therefore necessary to be informed of every flood risk and as soon as there is an alert, to evacuate their equipment to a safe place. Investments are even required for some businesses that store their goods in containers and trucks for this purpose.

Many more professions are affected by global warming and must also adapt to survive. 

As a slight consolation, it is having a positive impact on other sectors, which are expanding rapidly and recruiting for positions such as climatologists, meteorologists, environmental lawyers, climate consultants, wind power project managers, energy transition managers, etc.

“It is a sad thing to think that nature speaks and mankind does not listen.” Victor Hugo, 1870

To remember

For some outdoor, land and sea, health and service occupations and activities, global warming requires the continuous adaptation of working methods. Adapting often means internal reorganisation, new tools and investment in both people and money. 

This adaptability allows new ideas to emerge, ensuring a future for threatened activities and thus avoiding, in extreme cases, their disappearance.

Sources: France info, youmatter.world.fr, www.tf1info.fr, Les Echos, apiculture.net, reseauactionclimat.org

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