It is a difficult time for many right now. We are struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus on our personal and professional lives.
As a result, it may seem insensitive to talk about climate action. However, the two issues are inextricably linked.
We must remain vigilant and continue to focus on the climate emergency at this critical time because the longer we fail to act on climate change, the more likely it will be that future pandemics will break out and spread around the world, just as COVID-19 has done.
One possible reason for this is that as humans, we don’t seem to respond well to abstract threats like climate change.
That’s why I found myself feeling some relief after watching Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, explain how he thinks about our current COVID-19 outbreak in terms of climate change.
As he told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: “If you believe as I do that this is not going to be the last one, we better start thinking about what to do about it because that’s a very real possibility and the probability that we will see this again. And when we do, we’ve got to be able to get out of the blocks quickly without having it look like a disorganized mess.”
A growing body of evidence suggests that climate change has contributed to an increase in the number of zoonotic diseases, those transmitted from animals to humans. The most recent research into the origins of COVID-19 found that the virus may have originated in horseshoe bats.
In addition, a 2018 study from Yale University found that climate change is likely to increase the prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
Climate change is also expected to lead to more extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods, storm surges, and heavy rainfall, which can displace people from their homes, interrupt access to healthcare, and put additional stress on human health.
And climate change could cause rising sea levels, flooding coastal communities with saltwater, and contaminating freshwater supplies inland.