Climate Change May Have Helped COVID-19 Emerge

FRIDAY, February 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) – It’s a connection few could have considered, but a new study indicates that climate change may have caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions have spurred the growth of bat-friendly forest habitat in southern China’s Yunnan Province and neighboring regions, making the region a hotspot. for coronaviruses transmitted by bats, the researchers explained. Genetic data suggests that the new coronavirus may have appeared in this region.

Coronaviruses are common in bats, and it is believed that SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – could have originated in bats and then jumped into humans.

In the area analyzed in the study, increases in temperature, sunlight and atmospheric carbon dioxide related to climate change – which affect plant and tree growth – have shifted the natural habitat from tropical bush to tropical savannah and deciduous forest.

It is now a hospitable environment for many bat species that mainly live in forests, and 40 other bat species that are home to 100 other types of bat-transmitted coronaviruses have settled in the province of Quebec. Yunnan over the past century, according to the study published on February 5 in the journal Total environmental science.

“Climate change over the past century has made the habitat of Yunnan province in southern China suitable for more bat species,” said study lead author Robert Beyer, Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK.

“Understanding how the global distribution of bat species has changed due to climate change may be an important step in reconstructing the origin of the COVID-19 epidemic,” added Beyer, who has a scholarship of research at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. , in Germany.

Over the past century, climate change has led to an increase in bat species in Central Africa and parts of Central and South America, the researchers said in an academic press release.

According to study co-author Andrea Manica of the Cambridge Department of Zoology, “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous social and economic damage. Governments must seize the opportunity to reduce the health risks of infectious diseases by taking decisive action to mitigate climate change. “

The researchers also said it was essential to limit the expansion of urban areas, farmland and hunting grounds into natural areas, in order to reduce contact between people and animals carrying diseases.

More information

The World Health Organization has more on climate change and health.

SOURCE: University of Cambridge, press release, February 5, 2021

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