The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the greatest “carbon crash” in history. The global shutdown and drop in economic activity has led to an unprecedented fall in greenhouse gas emissions. In this way, at least, the pandemic is clearly interlinked with climate change.
Could there be other ways the two are linked? Climate change did not cause coronavirus. However, some scientists argue that growing environmental pressures, as well as changing weather patterns caused by climate change, may increase the likelihood of global pandemics.
Researchers suggest, for example, that higher average temperatures increase the likelihood of infectious disease transmission. They also argue that changing animal behaviour caused by environmental disruption can lead to greater contact with humans (increasing the chances of a given disease jumping between species).
Earlier this year, we interviewed Raj Patel, the academic, film-maker, and best-selling author of books including The Value of Nothing, for our debate on whether capitalism has done more harm than good. He made the point that the destruction of our natural world forces human and animal populations closer together, increasing the chance of “zoonotic disease” (i.e. when a pathogen jumps from a non-human animal to a human):
[W]hen the driving force is about creating and exploiting new frontiers, and turning the rest of the natural world as we understand it into money, then you start destroying forests, you start crowding wildlife together, you start creating the conditions for zoonotic disease – which we’re living through at the moment – you start creating a world which is filled with the possibilities of massive destruction…
Should we perhaps be taking a more “holistic” approach to climate change? The environment is so fundamental to our existence that surely climate change will impact every aspect of life on Earth, including public health. Rather than seeing climate change as just “one more” crisis, separate from others, perhaps we should be thinking about how it impacts everything we do, from the economy, to public health, to society, politics, inequality, and more.
Are climate change and COVID-19 interlinked? Should we take a more holistic approach to climate change, seeing it as impacting all aspects of society and the economy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!