Study: Climate Change Likely to Accelerate Spread of Highly Infectious Diseases Like Covid-19A new study shows how rising temperatures and associated droughts, floods, and fires displacing animals and humans alike, increase the chance for pathogens to jump from animals to humans. Effect could lead to spread of diseases like Covid-19 regularly
By Main Street Sentinel Staff
Climate change is usually associated with major catastrophic upheavals like floods, droughts, fires, and hurricanes. However, a new study published in the scientific journal Nature examines how rising temperatures, which directly contribute to these major disasters, will almost certainly cause the spread of diseases, including Covid-19.
Camilo Mora, one of the lead researchers on the project and a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii, discussed with NPR that just as major climate shifts and disasters affect humans, so too do they displace and impact other species, often with the effect of putting them in close contact with humans.
For example, a bat – with its hundreds of unique pathogens – is normally isolated in a jungle and not a concern for humans. However, droughts or fires caused by increasing temperatures force animals to search for new resources and habitats ultimately encountering humans, Mora elaborated. “And that single moment when the animal with that pathogen gets in contact with us is called a spillover…it unleashes an incredible amount of human suffering. For instance, what happened with COVID-19.”
There is some data to suggest that climate change can reduce or limit some diseases by shrinking habitats of disease carrying mosquitoes, for example. Indeed, “60% of diseases at times can stop being a problem,” Mora said. But these same conditions can end up making the eventual spread and effect of these diseases worse by further confining humans and pathogen spreading animals into increasingly limited spaces.
Ultimately, Mora stressed that mitigation of climate change is the most crucial task as Covid-19 already demonstrated the limits of our ability to adapt to new diseases. Only by reducing the impact and severity of climate change can we hope to head off the spillover of even worse pathogens, he stressed.