News Release

Scientific Analysis Links Environmental Change and New Diseases

New analysis published by Nature has confirmed a“link between global environmental change and disease emergence.” The researchers conclude that climate change will cause new diseases to emerge more frequently. They assert that because climate change and habitat destruction will likely drive species to aggregate in areas of high human population density, particularly in Asia and Africa, zoonotic spillover (the cross-species transmission of viruses that can lead to new epidemics and pandemic) will increase. The Covid-19 pandemic may have been sparked by just such spillover

Colin Carlson, a co-author of the study, said that “the moment to stop climate change from increasing viral transmission was 15 years ago. We’re in a world that’s 1.2 degrees warmer [than pre-industrial levels]… We have to prepare for more pandemics because of it.”

SARAH MYHRE, PhD, sarah@glaserprogress.org 
    Myhre is a climate and ocean scientist and the Program Director for Climate Advocacy and Democracy Reform at the Glaser Progress Foundation. 

Myhre told the Institute for Public Accuracy that there are key lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic that can be applied to the climate crisis

Myhre said that disease emergence is an “important component of the public health impacts associated with climate change.” She added: “Just like physical phenomena of heat waves or smoke storms, biological and social problems like pandemics are not contained within the artifice of borders. Such questions are squarely in the paradigm of environmental justice, for both climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. Systemic problems unjustly impact those who are already the poorest and most vulnerable across the planet, degrading or destroying the relationship between people and the environment, and revealing the way that the past must be addressed and repaired.” 

At a time when the United States just surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, Myhre noted: “There has [also] been an emotional experience that connects the pandemic and climate change, and that is horror. Horror at this scale of death and loss, and horror at the political normalization of death at this scale.” She said that lawmakers and public servants have proliferated “a narrative of mass death as an inevitable externality, as we see in the politicized leadership on the pandemic. They do not deserve, and are unqualified for, the role of public servant.”