Apparently, Climate Change Is Good for One Thing: Disease


Guess what? I’m a little interested in pandemic diseases these days. So when I spotted this study about how serious contagious diseases are getting a big boost from those clever Chinese climate hoaxsters, I thought I'd look a little closer. From Nature Climate Change:

We found that 58% (that is, 218 out of 375) of infectious diseases confronted by humanity worldwide have been at some point aggravated by climatic hazards; 16% were at times diminished. Empirical cases revealed 1,006 unique pathways in which climatic hazards, via different transmission types, led to pathogenic diseases. The human pathogenic diseases and transmission pathways aggravated by climatic hazards are too numerous for comprehensive societal adaptations, highlighting the urgent need to work at the source of the problem: reducing GHG emissions.

That last sentence is the key. On Monday evening, in between updates on the Invasion Of Mar-a-Lago, I saw a former health advisor for the Obama administration named Dr. Kavita Patel talk about the sudden re-emergence of polio on the national scene. Patel ended with a rousing appeal for the states and the country to prioritize public health again. To which I say “Huzzah,” but also this report says that won't be remotely enough to cope with the combination of epidemic disease and the climate crisis. The only solution to the latter problem is to stop f*cking up the climate beyond all recall.

The report is unsparing in its conclusions: Diseases are coming, some of them from out of the dim and distant past, and they’re coming in as many ways as they can find. From the AP (via HealthDayNews):


The researchers found that torrential rain and flooding made people sick through mosquitoes, rats and deer that carry germs. Also, warming oceans and heat waves taint seafood and other food, while droughts increase the number of bats that carry viruses. "If climate is changing, the risk of these diseases are changing," study co-author Dr. Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the Associated Press.

"The findings of this study are terrifying and illustrate well the enormous consequences of climate change on human pathogens," Dr. Carlos del Rio, an Emory University infectious disease specialist who was not part of the study, told the AP. "Those of us in infectious diseases and microbiology need to make climate change one of our priorities, and we need to all work together to prevent what will be without doubt a catastrophe as a result of climate change," del Rio said.

Polio, for example, a viral disease whose eradication was once ranked next to that of smallpox as a triumph of medical science, is now being spread because of the increased frequency of massive rainfalls that lead to floods. And of course, in this country—where the polio vaccine was discovered and (blessings on you, Jonas Salk) given freely to the world—a substantial portion of this country has decided to do its own research. Thus does ignorance gain its own bibliography.

Recently, the Miami Herald helpfully listed the diseases carried by one of the “unique pathways” (in the words of the report) turned into a contagion superhighway by the climate crisis: the mosquito.

watch now

The bloodsucker that carries dengue — Aedes aegypti — is also known for spreading other viruses in the region such as Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. […] Before 2006, the chikungunya virus was rarely identified in U.S. travelers. Beginning in 2014, cases were reported among U.S. travelers returning from affected areas and local transmission was identified in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Only two suspected cases have been reported so far this year in Florida, state data shows.

And it’s here where we come back to Dr. Patel. Not only are we merely starting to address the climate crisis, which is the breeding ground for this vast human tragedy, but we are not ready for what’s coming. Not remotely close. American public health spending is a joke; the American health care system is an international embarrassment.

And there we are.

Such types of disease have the capacity to not only cause illness and death in large numbers of people but can also trigger broader socioeconomic consequences (for example, the cumulative financial costs of the COVID-19 pandemic could mount to US$16 trillion for the United States alone). It should be noted that this was not an isolated event; the burden of diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus, Zika, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, influenza, Ebola, MERS and SARS cause millions of deaths each year and an inexplicable amount of human suffering.

Here is where I differ with the authors of this study: All of these incoming horrors are completely, tragically explicable.


FromEsquire US

More Videos You Can Watch
About The Author
Charles P. Pierce
Charles P. Pierce, lead for Esquire Politics US, has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.
View Other Articles From Charles
Latest Feed
Load More Articles
Connect With Us