5. The role of climate and wildlife in pandemics
The good news is, climate change is not directly at play with the novel coronavirus. The bad news: we humans are still root drivers in pandemics like this one, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
The state of play: Buying, selling and consuming wild animals, such as at the Wuhan, China, market where this novel coronavirus is believed to have originated, is increasingly spreading deadly infectious diseases, experts say.
How it works: “We know that tropical diseases tend to have wildlife as reservoirs,” said Lee Hannah, a senior scientist in climate change biology with Conservation International.
- By moving wild animals into cities, “you’re taking something that’s known to be a wildlife disease reservoir and putting it into a densely populated area,” Hannah said.
Climate change has an overarching impact on it all, though it’s a less direct connection than wild animal markets. Some of these indirect links include...
1. Air pollution, largely from fossil-fuel emitting sources that also drive climate change, worsens any given virus’ impact on human health, according to Aaron Bernstein of Harvard's Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.
- A study of 2003's outbreak of SARS in Asia found that “people exposed to the highest level of air pollution were twice as likely to die from the disease as those who were not,” Bernstein said.
2. Increasing temperatures could change the habitat for disease-carrying mosquitoes, such as with Zika, into more northern locales, Bernstein says.
- That’s unlikely to spread as quickly as COVID-19, the illness stemming from the coronavirus, because Zika is primarily spread via mosquitos.
3. Deforestation is linked to increased carbon dioxide emissions and also destroys habitats, which increases the risk of close human-animal encounters, Bernstein said.