The Coronavirus Pandemic Shows us how Unprepared we are to Face Climate Change

By Jalen Xing

As the past few weeks have been crucial for the novel coronavirus, we can see how the world, especially the United States, has responded to this pandemic. Modern life has been completely changed: schools, such as colleges and high school, are going online, many people are losing their jobs, and the stock market is crashing. Meanwhile, crowded hospitals have nurses without adequate protection who are serving on the front lines.

While the United States seems to be a very developed country, and one that would respond to disasters efficiently, the truth contradicts this assumption. “Instead, the Trump administration has repeatedly chosen to blindside its allies with the introduction of new limitations on trade and movement of peoples” (The Conversation). With the aggressive problem of climate change, the lack of a unified response will prove detrimental to the world. The novel coronavirus has given us an image of how the United States will respond to future disasters. “Experts note that climate-induced changes in the movement patterns of humans, animals, and pathogens will make viral outbreaks more common. Global reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak — from failures in social distancing to rising Sinophobia — show that the world is not prepared to deal with these new health crises (Columbia University)”

Already, 70 percent of our infections come from Zoonotic diseases (diseases from animals), but the transmission rates may begin to change due to climate change. As weather patterns continue to change, animals will begin migrating towards higher altitudes, putting them closer and closer to human contact. Many animals will begin to feel stress from these sudden changes in temperature, resulting in their immune system weakening. It will also become easier to transmit certain diseases that humans have never encountered before.

Similarly, deforestation will cause the migration of many animals from forests due to the destruction of homes, putting many humans at risk of contracting diseases from these displaced animals. As temperatures continue to increase, both animals and humans will have to move to higher altitudes with colder temperatures. The poorer population, who does not have the opportunity to move and is already in close contact with animals, will have the greatest number of infections. “The climate crisis is already expected to cause an additional quarter of a million deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress, with estimates of the direct annual costs of health damage alone ranging from $2-4 billion USD by 2030” (Columbia University).

Currently, even though Zoonotic diseases are not on the same scale as COVID-19, we should be wary of how they will continue to grow as a result of climate change, and we should be ready to take the necessary precautions using the info we have learned from the coronavirus pandemic.