With Climate Change, Global Pandemics will be the Norm

Image credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Researchers are warning that the climate crisis is fueling a “potentially devastating” spread of disease across animal species (including humans) that increases the risk of future pandemics. A recent study in Nature modeled how the global warming and changes in land use will force thousands of species into contact with one another for the first time as they search for new, habitable homes. These introductions lead to what is called “zoonotic spillover,” where viruses can transfer between animals and humans – like how COVID-19 was introduced to humans.

And this is not a prediction for the distant future. The report reads, “Surprisingly, we find that this ecological transition may already be under way, and holding warming under 2C within the century will not reduce future viral sharing.” Gregory Albery, a co-author of the study said, “This is happening, it’s not preventable even in the best case climate change scenarios and we need to put measures in place to build health infrastructure to protect animal and human populations.”

We are still dealing with the tremendous physical, emotional, and societal destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The damage that would come from further pandemics, atop increasing weather events and water and land scarcity due to climate change, is catastrophic. The study further reports, “We caution that these results should not be interpreted as a justification for inaction…Rather, our results highlight the urgency of better wildlife disease surveillance systems and public health infrastructure as a form of climate change adaptation…”

Yet, in the capitalist world we live in, basic human needs like mitigating climate change, building a functional public health infrastructure, and providing the means for all of us to be well fed and sheltered will always take second place behind the needs of a tiny ruling class to control and exploit the world’s people and resources for profit. The scientific solutions that we need will only be possible in a world free from capitalism’s chains.