The changing climate presents a number of risk factors for future pandemics.
Deforestation, a major contributing factor to climate change, is drawing human and animal populations closer together.
This means animal-borne infectious diseases— like COVID-19, Ebola, Salmonella, malaria, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever— are closer to human population centers.
Six out of every 10 human diseases and three quarters of emerging infections are “zoonotic,” meaning that they jump from animals to humans.
As the world gets warmer, more and more tick and mosquito-borne illnesses like Lyme Disease, Zika and Eastern Encephalitis are present in a wider geographic range. And the insects have longer lifespans.
Flash flooding and sea level rise in low lying coastal areas put residents at risk of water-borne illness as well, while heat-related deaths are also on the rise.
While these conditions enable disease spread, fossil fuel pollution impacts air quality, leading to respiratory diseases and a greater likelihood of COVID-19 complications. The many health effects of high temperature and air pollution exposure include pregnancy risks, which have a disproportionate impact on Black mothers, according to research examining 32 million births.
A recent report found if carbon emissions continue to grow, three-quarters of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heat waves by 2100.