According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, 58 percent of the 375 recognized infectious illnesses that plague mankind globally can be made worse by climate change. Increased temperatures and other severe climatic threats were found to exacerbate 218 diseases brought on by viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.
The authors of the research searched through more than 70,000 scholarly articles for actual instances of illnesses that 10 particular climate dangers have affected. Warming, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, extremely high precipitation, floods, sea level rise, changes in land cover, and ocean biogeochemical changes were some of these.
3,213 case cases of infectious illness that were linked to climatic risks were found as a result of this thorough research. After additional data analysis, the researchers found 1,006 distinct ways that the changing climate can affect pathogenic diseases.
Numerous of these techniques included bringing germs closer to people. Examples include the connection between Ebola epidemics in Africa and wildfires that forced bats and monkeys to leave their homes, as well as the possibility that an old anthrax strain that infected many people in the Arctic Circle was released as a result of thawing permafrost.
On the other hand, it has been discovered that climatic risks that result in population shifts expose individuals to infections more frequently. Storms, floods, and sea level rise are a few of them, and they have all been linked to outbreaks of Lassa fever, pneumonia, typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, Legionnaires’ diseases, and respiratory illnesses.
Climate change not only makes it easier for people to come into touch with diseases, but it also benefits many disease-causing organisms by expanding their habitable range and enabling longer reproductive seasons. For example, warming and heavy rains provide plague-carrying rodents with more food and resources, allowing their populations to expand and posing a greater risk to people. Storms and flooding also produce stagnant water pools that serve as mosquito breeding grounds, resulting in dengue, West Nile, leishmaniasis, and yellow fever outbreaks.
Finally, as a result of increased physical hardships and disruptions to the infrastructure supporting sanitization and medical care, climate change is reducing humans’ ability to combat diseases. For example, dry conditions make it harder to get potable water, while torrential downpours harm sewage systems and contaminate water supplies further. These risks have been linked to cholera, scabies, Salmonella, E. coli, dysentery, and hepatitis outbreaks.
A total of 160 illnesses were determined to be made worse by global warming, 122 by changes in precipitation, and 121 by floods. 81 pathogens were made worse by drought, 71 pathogens were made worse by storms, 61 diseases were made more dangerous by changes in land cover, and 43 hazardous diseases were made worse by changes in ocean temperature. It was discovered that 21, 20, and 10 illnesses, respectively, were influenced by fires, heatwaves, and increasing sea levels.
According to research author Camilo Mora, “it was genuinely frightening to realize the tremendous health vulnerability coming as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions given the widespread and ubiquitous repercussions of the COVID 19 epidemic.” The researchers built a website that lets visitors explore how various climatic dangers influence particular illnesses in order to demonstrate their thesis.
“Just put, there are simply too many illnesses and disease-transmission routes for us to believe that we can effectively adapt to climate change. It draws attention to the pressing need to lower greenhouse gas emissions on a worldwide scale “said Mora.