Pandemic horror: Climate change to cause 4000 new virus transmissions

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According to a new study, a warming planet will create new infections between animals, and potentially between animals and humans. A major reason for this is that as the temperatures increase, animals will be forced to migrate to more suitable locations, which will result in many species interacting for the first time. These interactions may have devastating consequences, as scientists believe that the current Covid-19 virus, which caused a global pandemic, originated from bats, which spread to animals like wild foxes, which were then consumed by humans.

The report noted that global warming was “increasing the risk of emerging infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans in the next 50 years.”

The researchers found that by 2070, there could be about 4000 new cross-species viral transmissions.

However, Greg Albery, a postdoctoral Fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin in Berlin and a co-author of the study stressed that this does not necessarily mean that there will be 4000 new pandemics.

Speaking to CNBC, he added: “But each one has the potential to influence animal health and maybe to then spill over into human populations.

“Either way, it is likely to be very bad news for the health of the affected ecosystems.”

Lead author Colin Carson tweeted: “As climate change reshapes life on earth, it may also become the single biggest upstream driver of pandemic risk.

“Our new study in Nature simulates how 3,139 species will share viruses – and create new spillover risk hotspots – over the next 50 years.”

Like the Covid-19 pandemic, bats will play a particularly key role in the spread of these transmissions as they can fly.

The study warns that bats will be responsible for nearly 90 percent of the first encounters between species, with a majority of these cross infections taking place in southeast Asia.

However, Mr Albery warned that vilifying bats could make the situation worse.

He said: “Bats are disproportionately responsible, but we’re trying to accentuate that this isn’t the thing to blame them for — and that punishing them (culling, trying to prevent migrations) is likely to only make matters worse by driving greater dispersal, greater transmission, and weaker health,”

In the study, the authors used computer modelling to predict where species would likely overlap for the first time, which could create “hotspots” of transmission.

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Professor Matthew Aliota, who was not involved in the study, told CNBC: “This is an interesting study that puts a quantitative estimate on what a number of scientists have been saying for years (me included): changing climate — along with other factors — will enhance opportunities for introduction, establishment, and spread of viruses into new geographic locations and new host species.

“Unfortunately, we will continue to see new zoonotic disease events with increasing frequency and scope.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Bausch, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene said: “Human behavioural change (e.g. hunting of migrated animals) and land perturbations in response to climate change – for example urbanization and habitat changes such as highway and dam building – may impede mammal migrations, and limit mixing.

“There may be hot spots, but also cold spots—i.e. areas that become uninhabitable.”

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