A new study warns that climate change will cause thousands of new viruses to spread among animals by 2070, likely raising the risk of animal-to-human infectious diseases.
This is especially true in Africa and Asia, two continents that have been at the forefront of human-to-animal transmission of the virus or vice versa in the past few decades, especially for influenza, Ebola and coronavirus.
The researchers, whose results are published Thursday in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, used simulations to study the potential migration of more than 3,000 species of mammals and the exchange of viruses that could occur over the next 50 years if the planet warms by 2 degrees Celsius, which is possible according to the latest research. .
They found that the exchange of viruses between species occurs more than 4,000 times in mammals alone. Birds and marine animals were not part of the study.
The researchers clarify that not all viruses will pass to humans and that not all of them will cause a pandemic of the same scale as the coronavirus, but an increase in the number of viruses that pass from one species to another also increases the risk of spread. people.
The study highlights two global crises – climate change and the spread of infectious diseases – as the world tries to figure out how to deal with each.
Previous studies have examined how deforestation, extinction and the wildlife trade lead to animal-to-human transmission, but there is little research on how climate change might affect such transmission, the researchers explained.
“We don’t talk much about climate in the context of zoonoses,” diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, said one of the co-authors of the study, biology professor Colin Carlson of Georgetown University. “Our study brings together two of the most acute crises we face.”
Climate change and infectious disease experts agree that a warmer planet is likely to increase the risk of new viruses.
Daniel R. Brooks, a biologist at the University of Nebraska, said the study illustrates the risk associated with climate change in terms of an increased risk of infectious diseases.
“This particular contribution is an extremely conservative estimate of the potential” for the spread of new infectious diseases due to climate change, he warned.
Dr. Aaron Bernstein, acting director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, says the study confirms long-standing doubts about the impact of global warming on the emergence of infectious diseases.
“In particular, this study shows that such encounters may already occur more frequently in places where many people live,” Dr. Bernstein said.
The co-author of the study, environmentalist Gregory Albury of Georgetown University, said that since the emergence of infectious diseases caused by climate change is probably already happening, the planet should learn about it and prepare for a deal.
“This cannot be avoided even under the best climate change scenario,” Albury said.
Mr. Carlson, who also co-authored the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reminded us that we must cut greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels to reduce the risk of the spread of infectious diseases.
Jaron Brown of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance said the study highlights the injustice suffered by people in African and Asian countries.
“African and Asian countries are most at risk of increased exposure to the virus, which shows once again that those on the front lines of a crisis are often the ones least responsible for climate change,” he said, emphasizing.