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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Human activity, climate change risk more pandemics

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New research has revealed climate change, environmental degradation and human activity are creating a perfect storm for more deadly pandemics like COVID-19.

Scientists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) say COVID-19 has highlighted the critical need to reduce human impacts on the environment to prevent further pandemics.

Bats are known to transmit viruses to humans, and are being displaced by human activity. Photo Kahunapulej/Flickr.com

Dr Natasha Pauli from UWA said deforestation and land degradation meant humans and various host species were in closer contact with one another.

‘This will make the outbreak of emerging infectious diseases more frequent, and more dangerous to humans,’ Dr Pauli said.

‘A virus jumping between species may remain localised, and not emerge as a full pandemic. However, our actions combined with climate change are creating conditions where greater crossover between species can occur.’

Climate changes affect habitat, human contact

Dr Kirsten Martinus, the study’s lead author, said climate change and associated severe weather events were altering habitat.

‘So where a habitat may have had ample food for an ecosystem, suddenly you get a change and the food or the ecosystem actually changes itself and you get animals coming in contact with each other that previously were not in contact with each other. And from that you get novel diseases occurring.’

Dr Katie Woolaston from the Queensland University of Technology said: ‘As climates get warmer, [wildlife] need to move to more temperate regions, and that might or likely does bring them into closer contact with people’.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted an increase in the number of people exposed to vector-borne and water-borne diseases, like malaria and cholera, owing to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.

Dr Woolaston co-authored a United Nations report, which found there are up to 827,000 animal viruses which could be transferred to humans unless human ecological disruption is addressed.

Some of the key human activities causing wildlife, and disease, to spread are land use change, forestry, factory farming and the wildlife trade.

Global consumption habits now a pandemic risk

Dr Woolaston said that wildlife trade is a much bigger issue in Australia than people realise.

‘We get a lot of international wildlife in for the pet trade, which is quite a big industry… We also have our own wildlife trade with respect to kangaroos which is a commercialised wildlife trade in Australia, which a lot of people don’t realise comes with risk in respect to viruses.’

Dr Kirsten Martinus. Photo supplied.

However, of greater concern are global industries which are indirectly responsible for wildlife trade in their production process, according to Dr Woolaston and Dr Martinus.

The cheap fashion industry, in particular, is a major culprit in Australia.

The UWA study found that for too long, pandemic research has focused on the locations where pandemics start.

‘These may be in particular regions of the world, and so we tend to focus on that, but the problem is a lot of times those activities that are occurring there are actually part of a larger global supply chain,’ Dr Martinus said.

‘We may not think that we’re responsible for the emergence of pandemics, but it is our global demand for the products, particularly for cheap products, which then puts pressure on particular places which are vulnerable anyway to produce things cheaply and then puts people at risk.

‘I think the pandemic has really highlighted that, because we’ve increasingly become more and more disconnected with where food comes from or how products are made, and by doing that we’ve removed any responsibility of our own choices in things that happen.’

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  1. How many times do people need to be told that their ‘own wants & expectations’ are responsible for a non-healthy life nation. Yes,
    land use changes, forestry bugger-ups, wildlife trade & the import of cheap products are the new salad days. Wake up.

    • Humans, supposedly the most intelligent of all the species but it the only species that soils its own nest to foster that potentially will lead to its own extinction.

    • der, Anton, it’s the El Nino… look at the overall pattern of climate warming over the past 20 tears or so. One cooler summer doesn’t change the bigger picture!

  2. Be interesting to see in another 12 months, what mod cons and other benefits these self-appointed “experts” [cough cough] have given up [ie, no more global travel], to help bring their [socialist] desired changes to pass…will one of them, any of them “walk the walk”? The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak……

  3. Well without the Lectures Joachim & Stefanie Could you please come back to me
    with any possible reason as to why China
    has the coldest temperatures in 50 years
    Yes that is 50 ? a country who by far have the largest Global Warming emissions on the planet, 100s of new coal fired power stations
    not signing up to the Paris Agreement until at least 2030 .. one would think this country would be a furnace all year around .
    Apparently not !! and while iam at it the River Thames have frozen over for the first time in 60 years !! Yes 60 years .
    Australia has had a very mild summer
    As has most most of the world.
    Winters have has seen record cold …
    and computer modeling is suggesting
    The complete Opposite as is the
    Agreeable Scientists.!! .. now iam at one with
    Nature and should do everything to preserve
    It 100% .. but where are the ABC or the
    Guardian or the Echo or the Greens ???
    On this Record Cold ???

    • Barrow my man, you back again. Clearly you still not getting it with The Climate Emergency but I see you staying the course with your cherry picking of single weather events. Barrow old son, try doing a little bit of reading, any of The IPCC Reports on Climate will do.

  4. Yes Joachim selective weather events
    The ABC the Guardian are experts at that .
    As is the IPCC ! What because the IPCC
    Have information from Scientists cherry
    Picked Joachim they are correct? for your information
    Joachim the Number of Sensible Scientists
    Who infact Admit there is not a Emergency at all.
    75 % of Scientists have this opinion worldwide. Why is it the fact that Scientists
    Who totally disagree with the Scientists
    That are pushing this Climate emergency
    Are NEVER given a platform or airtime
    For debate Joachim to debunk the
    Alarmism? When was the last time
    You had two Scientists on the ABC
    Debating Global Warming ?
    The Answer is you wont .. !!
    Rest my case ..

  5. Barrow my man, I think you been sucked into Greg Hunt’s vortex of ABC Left. The IPCC has done the work, it is peer reviewed Scientific study, 97% of scientists agree that it humans causing the climate emergency. But please feel free to continue your denialism, it will surely make the climate emergency disappear and we canall happily keep burning Coal, Oil and Gas to our hearts content. Perhaps you can ask the ABC to host a show, that planet Earth is flat and that the Sun revolves around planet Earth.


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