By Asitha Jayawardena
So far, climate change and coronavirus (or Covid-19) were two things. Until now!
It’s not yet certain that climate change has made Covid-19 happen but the talk of the town (in global) is something like this: climate change caused Covid-19.
Climate change and Covid-19
Climate change caused environmental changes in such a way that bats harbouring coronavirus would thrive but nothing was certain until a research study was taken on that matter.
For example, deforestation is a result of climate change. When deforestation happens, the animals that live in the deforested land have no other option but to find new habitats for living. In doing so, the animals may spread germs and also encounter other animals. This would create the opportunity for pathogens to find new hosts.
Less demand for meat for human consumption and more preference for sustainable animal husbandry would lower the risk of infectious disease while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. This way, coronavirus as well as climate change should be minimised.
Research tying climate change and Covid-19
In December 2019, the first person infected with Covid-19 had a coronavirus that thrived in bats but infected via pangolin in the wet market in Guangdong and Wuhan in China. Or so as China says.
Still, we are in lockdown; so, research into its outbreak is scanty. But one study on Yunnan province in southern China, as well as the neighbouring regions of Myanmar and Laos, says that, in the past century, the region has become a global hotspot of bat species “richness”. Over 40 bat species moved in this period along with 100 additional coronaviruses.
The reason for this to happen is climate change. The vegetation types induced by climate change are the reason for “bat-borne ancestors” of SARS-CoV-1 (known as “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome”) and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) to thrive there. Impacts of climate change, such as higher CO2 emissions and increased temperature, have caused these changes in the vegetation.
The lead author of this study Dr Robert Beyer, University of Cambridge, says that the impact of climate change has made bats expand habitats in this region.
The study says that coronavirus (or SARS-CoV-2) originated in bats in Yunnan and other neighbouring regions, then pangolins carrying the coronavirus were taken to the wet markets in Guangdong and Wuhan and people were started with infection in December 2019.
Today, Covid-19 has gone global with 116 million cases and 2.6 million deaths.
Too early to say climate change is responsible
However, scientists who are not part of this research say that the study is interesting but the impact of climate change should not be the cause. To say that, they say, is too early. The data that is used and the conclusions it draws will be more questionable as we are still in this pandemic.
One problem this research has not taken into consideration is the cloud cover over 100 years. Another is the debate of the origins of Covid-19. A yet another is the rely on the data on the bat specialist group, International Union for Conservation of Nature, which other scientists say insufficient.
Another burden to climate change
Further research will address these issues but climate change will have another burden, namely SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus (Covid-19)!
Scientists sceptical of new bat study linking climate change to Covid-19 emergence
Coronavirus and Climate Change