ProPublica discusses How Climate Change Is Contributing to Skyrocketing Rates of Infectious Disease. A catastrophic loss in biodiversity, reckless destruction of wildland and warming temperatures have allowed disease to explode. Ignoring the connection between climate change and pandemics would be “dangerous delusion,” one scientist said. The scientists who study how diseases emerge in a changing environment knew this moment was coming. Climate change is making outbreaks of disease more common and more dangerous. Over the past few decades, the number of emerging infectious diseases that spread to people — especially coronaviruses and other respiratory illnesses believed to have come from bats and birds — has skyrocketed. A new emerging disease surfaces five times a year. One study estimates that more than 3,200 strains of coronaviruses already exist among bats, awaiting an opportunity to jump to people.
As diversity wanes, the balance is upset, and remaining species are both more vulnerable to human influences and, according to a landmark 2010 study in the journal Nature, more likely to pass along powerful pathogens.
Similarly, a study published last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that as larger mammals suffer declines at the hands of hunters or loggers or shifting climate patterns, smaller species, including bats, rats and other rodents, are thriving, either because they are more resilient to the degraded environment or they are able to live better among people.
That same year, a fatal lung disease transmitted through the saliva, feces and urine of rats and mice called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome emerged in Panama for the first time, according to a report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
A 2008 study in the journal Nature found nearly one-third of emerging infectious diseases over the past 10 years were vector-borne, and that the jumps matched unusual changes in the climate.
Soon, they’ll be spreading further northward. According to a 2019 study in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, by 2050, disease-carrying mosquitoes will ultimately reach 500 million more people than they do today, including some 55 million more Americans.
According to a 2013 study in the journal PLOS Currents Influenza, warm winters were predictors of the most severe flu seasons in the following year.