Climate change and Coronavirus: two sides of the same coin

So far, three months into the new year, Coronavirus has become a threat and it is having effects not only in public health, but economics and the environment. Just as in any system, when one thing changes, it has a ripple effect and many other things do, too.

But this situation did not start with coronavirus, rather the opposite. The disease COVID-19 is one of the effects that climate change has caused, pornhub and many more viruses or unknown illnesses could be waiting and lying underneath the surface. 

Although there is no evidence yet to this statement, it is certain that climate change has aided to the massive spread of the virus and that there is a strong relation between climate and infectious diseases. 

cracked ground

Warmer weather, warmer bodies 

First of all, the planet is warmer now than it was ten years ago. Only in 2019, the global temperature rose 1,1°C degrees. And last January currently holds the record for being the hottest first month since 2016. With Antarctica reaching 20 degrees Celsius for the first time in history, we probably still have a lot more to expect.

Since 1992, there have been many studies stating a number of ways climate change could lead to the spread of infectious disease. Scientists who study infectious disease are not surprised the COVID-19 appeared and spread as quickly as it is doing, they had long foreseen that warmer weather conditions could help different viruses and pathogens spread easier, but their knowledge has been accelerated with recent events and they are learning in real time. 

This particular virus came from bats, animals with body temperatures higher than those of human bodies, around 40.5 degrees Celsius. So, bats normally carry a lot of pathogens without normally suffering from them. 

Now, our bodies are disease-fighting machines, and when a pathogen enters our body, a fever starts to arise to fight off the intruder. Fevers fire up the immune system and the environment created within our body is harsh for pathogens to survive. 

However, as we experience higher temperatures, viruses and pathogens are better equipped to resist the high temperature of the human bodies. With that, one of our main defense mechanisms loses its effectiveness. 

Deforestation crisis 

Another important climate-related factor that could have led to the pandemic we are facing, is deforestation. As many areas of trees are being cut to boost urbanization, the animals that inhabited those spaces, are left without a home. 

“So, it’s, specific conditions like, de-forestation or increase of urbanization or agriculture, that put people closer to wildlife and that makes us more at risk or more exposed to these viruses that are natural in wildlife.“ (Luis Escobar, disease ecologist at Virginia Tech)

Escobar published a paper this week in the journal, EcoHealth that found that the response to this current Coronavirus has actually been faster than in previous outbreaks. A scientist at UNAM, Gustavo Cruz, has applied a statistic model to show how fast a disease spreads during its initial period. 

To compare and contrast, the H1N1 flu virus pandemic back in 2009, had a basic reproductive number(R0), or number of people one carrier could pass the virus along, was of 1.7, while the coronavirus has been said to have a R0 of 2.5. 

Pathogens had coexisted with their animal hosts for millions of years, but now, all the climate effects are making it easier for viruses to hurt humans in a global scale. 

black smartphone

Globalization. Hope or threat? 

While the global interconnection we have has helped the virus to become a pandemic, with people travelling on cruise ships and airplanes carrying the pathogen, it has also affected the economy worldwide. 

When China shut down their walls, they also shut down companies from all over the globe, affecting countries from their production of goods and services to their oil supply. Markets have taken a hard hit and a recession has been predicted. 

We don’t know yet the extent of the crisis, the origin of the disease was unknown and now it has grown exponentially. On the other hand, the same globalization can help us contain the virus and learn from it. 

This means that, scientists from every research facility in the world are studying the virus and working on a cure. What is more, we can prevent from repeating the massive spread like China and Italy, since we have seen that quarantines work and shutting international travels. 

Finally, this pandemic can teach us a very valuable lesson that can help us reduce climate change and its terrible effects. The virus is prompting us to change our habits in ways that could make a longer-term contribution to climate protection, actions like working from home, video conferencing, working shorter weeks or staggering office hours to reduce traffic.

The CO2 emissions in China have dropped dramatically by 25%, something unprecedented. 

We can decide to take this as a lesson that the more we damage the environment, the harsher our living conditions will be, but if w use the tools globalization has given us and change our working habits, lifestyles and mentality, we might have a better chance of surviving.