Here’s something to think about after two years of living in a COVID-19 reality: More than 58 percent of human diseases caused by pathogens — think dengue, hepatitis, malaria, Zika — have been “aggravated by climatic hazards.”
Research published last week in Nature Climate Change by scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa examines empirical evidence in more than 70,000 scientific papers on the impacts of 10 climatic hazards sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions on each known human pathogenic disease, including drought, heatwaves, wildfires, floods, storms and sea level rise, Science Daily is reporting.
The scientists concluded these hazards influence diseases “triggered by viruses, bacteria, animals, fungi, protozoans, plants and chromists,” with 218 out of 375 known human pathogenic diseases having been affected at some point by at least one climatic hazard, the article states.
“Given the extensive and pervasive consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic, it was truly scary to discover the massive health vulnerability resulting as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions,” Camilo Mora, geography professor in the College of Social Sciences and lead author of the study, told Science Daily. “There are just too many diseases, and pathways of transmission, for us to think that we can truly adapt to climate change. It highlights the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.”
Other findings highlighted in the article include:
- Climatic hazards are bringing pathogens closer to people. Heatwaves, for instance, have been associated with rising cases of several waterborne diseases.
- Climatic hazards have enhanced specific aspects of pathogens. For example, storms, heavy rainfall and floods create stagnant water, increasing breeding and growing grounds for mosquitoes and the pathogens that they transmit.
- Climatic hazards have diminished human capacity to cope with pathogens by altering body condition, forcing people into unsafe conditions and damaging infrastructure, forcing exposure to pathogens and/or reducing access to medical care.