climate crisis Mitchell Beer Pandemic

How Humans Are Making Pandemics Three Times More Likely

Bats aren’t the only animals that can spread zoonotic diseases to humans. [U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/flickr]

By Mitchell Beer | The Energy Mix

Habitat loss and global heating are making extreme epidemics like COVID-19 three times more likely, finds a new study.

The yearly probability of zoonotic diseases—conditions caused by germs spread from animals to people—“can increase up to threefold in the coming decades,” say the authors of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using data on the intensity of epidemics over the last 400 years, paired with “recent estimates of the rate of increase in disease emergence from zoonotic reservoirs associated with environmental change,” the researchers warned that “the probability of a person experiencing a pandemic like COVID-19 in one’s lifetime is around 38%,” reports ABC News. That estimate could double in the coming decades.

The researchers urge policy-makers to heed the connection between the increasing incidence of zoonotic disease and the breakdown of buffers between human beings and the wild.

“As you make that interface between humans and the natural world smaller, we just come in more contact with those things, and climate enhances the ability for viruses to infect us more easily,” said study author William Pan, an associate professor of global environmental health at Duke University.

Experts who were not involved in the study agree. Dr. Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, cited the recent outbreak of Ebola Virus in West Africa as an example of how such a zoonotic spillover could happen.

Bernstein connected the destruction of tropical rainforest for palm oil plantations with the outbreak of Ebola in new areas. “There are bats that live in those forests, but they can’t live in palm oil plantations,” Bernstein said. “And so those bats moved to a part of West Africa where they infected people with Ebola.”

But it isn’t just a matter of direct human-to-animal exchange. “What we’ve observed is that animals and even plants are racing to the poles to get out of the heat,” said Bernstein. “And as they do that, they may run into creatures that they’ve never run into before. And that creates an opportunity for spillover to happen.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of all known diseases and 75% of emerging ones are zoonotic, so public health foresight and global collaboration will be critical to combating future outbreaks. But “waiting until diseases show up, and then trying to figure out how to solve them,” isn’t going to cut it, Bernstein warned.

“We need to address spillover,” he said. “And that means we need to protect habitats. We need to tackle climate change. We need to address the risk of large-scale livestock production because a lot of the pathogens move from wild animals into livestock and then into people.”

Noting the yawning gap between global spending on COVID-19 vaccines (US$157 billion out to 2025) and forest conservation, he added: “We’re about to throw a whole lot of money at solutions that only address a fraction of the problem.”

9 comments

  1. Yeah, this is a problem, but I’m more concerned with the numerous international “Center for Creating Novel Bat Coronoviruses That Are Extra Contagious To Humans Laboratory” that our idiot species has.

  2. I don’t worry about nature, I worry about US biolabs and the madmen that control them.

    Russia continues to publish damning evidence of US biolabs which of course are never ever published or mentioned in the major media. But if you go looking, you will find….and what you find will disturb you.

    1. The very first cases of Wuhan Covid were reported to WHO in very late December of 2019, yet the Pentagon was issuing pandemic flu warnings to Israel and other “allies” in mid November of the same year…. Don’t take my word for it; look it up in the 4/16/20 issue of “The Times of Israel”.

      It’s one thing to put one over on the public, but blatant B.S. on this scale is deliberate insult.
      How about we board up Fort Detrick, and see if the world’s sniffles get a little less severe.

    2. Beware of the final solution coming from a US bio-weapons lab.
      I’m sure it has been understood for a long time that there are simply too many people consuming this world into oblivion. COVID was created in a US lab and has has always felt like a test run for what is coming.

  3. more fake studies—covid not pandemic—hysteria a pandemic …phizer poison worthless, now revealed by their own studies…ebola has been contained; Covid was never much worse than ordinary seasonal flues….covid never derived from animals—invented in US bioweapons lab….in police state New Zealand the dictator Arden lifted restrictions sept 2022 and required fake vaccines they now report covid attributed deaths 2-4 times that USA, UK

  4. Justamaverick:I too.have no.faith in the laboratory in the US.When I was young we in West Philly.knew that the University of Penna had contracts for producing weapons.I don’t think.this has been curtailed.I believe that every.country with good science has messed with biological agents not.just the US and Russia.

  5. On Sunday night I came down with the flu. At 73, I’ve had the flu a number of times in my life but nothing like this. It started with pain in my shoulders and then moved throughout my whole body. The pain was horrific. Then I started running a fever and began a deep chest cough. I began takin cold and flu medicine and for the next 24 hours all I did was sleep. Today, Tuesday, I’m finally able to get up and eat some soup. I took a Covid-19 test to see if that’s what I had but it was negative. Nobody I know has been sick. Where did this come from and what is it?

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