Why climate change could mean more pandemics in Europe
In recent years, nearly all pandemics, including Ebola, SARS, and Covid-19, have been caused by infectious diseases that are passed to humans from animals or insects.
Because of this, experts have warned that climate change and a loss of biodiversity have increased the risks to humans. But, there’s still a chance to lower these risks by taking action.
In an environmental committee meeting, the head of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Peter Daszak warned MEPs that the risk of future pandemics remains “extremely high”.
But, he added, “What is clear is that our business-as-usual approach does not work,” and that “this is a clear issue for the future that we can deal with now”.
At the moment, it’s estimated that there are over 1.7 million viruses among mammal and bird species, many of which could potentially be transmitted to people.
Although most will not be passed on, changes in trade, food production, consumption, and lifestyles have meant more contact between animals – both wildlife and livestock – and humans, which is driving the risks of diseases.
Loss of biodiversity, in particular, needs to be addressed urgently. In the EU, some of the primary causes of this are pollution, agricultural practices, loss of green space, and the decline of habitats and various species.
To prevent future pandemics, the committee has urged for a major shift towards better prevention. By implementing these measures, countries in the EU and around the world will be better equipped to stop harmful viruses from being transferred from animals to humans.
There’s a strong correlation between pandemics and damage to ecosystems. This means that restoring and conserving the environment in the coming years is more important than ever.
Before the end of the year, the EU plans to publish its targets for EU nature restoration as part of the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. And, as the current pandemic has been a warning to many, it’s hoped that the union will set ambitious targets to protect the environment.