When discussing the current and future impacts of climate change, the biggest and most visible events like floods and storms may come to mind.
But a new study published in the journal this month Nature Rising temperatures, droughts and wildfires may be linked to the spread of diseases, including COVID-19.
Camilo Mora is a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii and co-author of a study examining the effects of these microscopic changes.
join Mora all things considered We analyze his findings and what this means for the future.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity
On the relationship between climate change and disease
Like you and me, every time we are affected by one of these climate hazards that are becoming more common, such as heat waves, wildfires, and floods, they are all related to climate change. It turned out that Increased greenhouse gases. It turns out that many of the species that harm us respond to it, just like we do.
And what’s really happening is that there are many ways that climate change is actually bringing these species into contact with us. What we did in this paper was quantify how big a deal this was.
An example of this is imagining a bat in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a jungle. That bat apparently has its own pathogens that have accumulated over hundreds of years. But they are over there and we are here. Therefore, there is no actual contact. There is no danger of that bat. Now imagine we are producing greenhouse gases. We generate a lot of heat. That heat causes drought, and that drought causes wildfires.
In the middle of the jungle, this bat didn’t cause us any pain, but it had to fly far in search of food, water, and sometimes habitat. Sometimes it touches us. And the moment an animal with that pathogen comes into contact with us is called a spillover. That is, unleashing an incredible amount of human suffering. For example, what happened with COVID-19?
On whether climate change could limit disease
Interestingly, some diseases have indeed been found to be less impacted by climate change.but the majority [of diseases]58% of them make us sick in 1,000 different ways and can exacerbate these diseases.
60% [diseases] Sometimes problems go away. One example is drought. In some cases, lack of water prevents mosquito breeding. There are also places where all diseases transmitted by mosquitoes can be reduced. However, there have been specific cases where drought actually exacerbated mosquito-borne diseases. The limited amount of water that was there is where mosquitoes like to breed. [that water will attract] All the species around us are looking for water. Basically, they act as magnets, these little reservoirs of water, for all sorts of pathogens and mosquitoes.
Potential links between climate change and diseases such as monkeypox and COVID
Ah the connection is there. It’s daunting. And in fact I lived it. I came to Colombia on vacation. And I think I’m a strong man, and you know, Colombians like to feel like they’re men of the jungle. However, I didn’t know that the mosquito was Chikungunya fever, and I was infected with this disease.
My skin is terrible, I had blisters for a week and it still hurts. I had this pain in my joints. As I was writing this paper, I found out that the reason that outbreak happened was because it rained so much all over South America that it created these infected mosquitoes all over the world. And in a very remote place where Chikungunya happens to be very rare and there are so many mosquitoes, [had reached me].
On the real pressure of these findings
For me, it’s shocking to read all these different papers and be like, “Wow, this was in front of us?” to understand and put these things into context . Her motivation for writing this paper was to see if climate change had anything to do with her COVID-19 outbreak. We can say up front what we don’t know yet, but what we can say after doing this work is that there are at least 20 different ways that COVID-19 could have been caused by climate change. And that, to me, is a concern. Current or not, there are at least 20 different ways climate change can make things as bad as COVID-19.
This story was edited for the web by Manuela Lopez Restrepo.