COVID and climate change shrunk our world and will shape our actions – The Arizona Republic

by | Jun 1, 2022 | Climate Change

More than 2,000 years ago, somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea, a mathematician named Eratosthenes used a shadow cast at noon on the equinox to calculate the circumference of the Earth. The answer he got was 28,735 miles.In modern times, with the aid of GPS units and satellites, scientists know the true answer to be 24,850 miles. Basic math hasn’t changed much since Eratosthenes’ day, and his conclusion was impressively close. But since then, communication technology, global travel and especially the COVID-19 pandemic have made the distance around the planet feel much smaller.Air travel can now transport a human around the world, through the atmosphere shared by Earth’s 7.9 billion other humans, in just a few days. In 2020, it became obvious that viruses can make that trip too.The lesson to be learned from this, according to scientist authors of recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other publications, is that pandemics, like climate change, are a shared, global problem. They argue that solutions must be pursued with a global focus as well. And they’re outlining ways we can tackle both issues at the same time.Around the world in 91 daysIt took 91 days from when symptoms of the illness now known as COVID-19 were first documented among a group of patients in Wuhan, China, on December 12, 2019, until the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.It has been much longer since scientists started issuing warnings about how climate change accelerates the risk of widespread disease outbreaks.In 2016, a team of scientists published a review paper in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International, synthesizing knowledge on, as they titled the summary, the “Impact of climate change on human infectious diseases.” To bring the picture of the intersection between climate and disease risk into focus, they pulled together insights from 131 research articles dating back to 1990, some of which detailed transmission events linked to climatic abnormalities occurring as early as the mid-1500s.”Studies have found that long-term climate warming tends to favor the geographic expansion of several infectious diseases, and that extreme weather events may help create the opportunities for more clustered disease outbreaks or outbreaks at non-traditional places and time,” the paper reads.The climate connection:Why scientists say slowing climate change could help prevent another pandemicIn other words, signals of climate change like warming temperatures and increased flooding create the conditions disease vectors like mosquitoes and ticks require to spread into areas where they were not previously common. Wildlife or livestock in these regions, many already stressed by the same habitat changes, can then become intermediate hosts for new pathogens these vectors introduce.Add in a skyrocketing human population, increasing international travel and activities like deforestation, bushmeat hunting and the wildlife trade — which lead to novel interactions between animals and people — and you have a perfect recipe for worldwide viral invasion. …

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