Climate change mitigation – reducing emissions to zero and substituting fossil fuels through renewable energy within a maximum of two decades – entails major consequences for modern industrial societies and economies. Industrial societies are structurally centred and dependent on work, however, the implications for work are insufficiently studied. We conduct an empirical analysis of the impacts of climate mitigation on work across all sectors of the Austrian national economy. Using a mixed methods approach, we investigate all NACE-classified branches of economic activity, the respective number of persons employed, CO2 emissions, fossil fuel use, renewable energy potential, and the societal importance of work. We find that the impacts of climate mitigation on work are far more substantial than the literature usually suggests. Required are significant reductions of work across all sectors, and its structural reorganisation based on an altered energy basis. Yet, potential for deployment of renewable energy technologies is currently not given for many fields of work that are dependent on fossil fuels. While the category of essential work further indicates the kinds of work that may be prioritised in transformation processes, particularly problematic are those deemed both essential for society and incompatible with climate mitigation. The study provides an initial empirical basis for substantiated differentiation of kinds of work regarding these key aspects of climate change mitigation and structural transformation. It also points to the need for institutions to address these challenges and the problematic ways in which work is organised and held sacrosanct in modern society.
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