A news report by Thomson Reuters Foundation says leading health experts are of the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic is a preview of the types of global health threats that will emerge as the planet becomes hotter and how it is tackled will have implications for dealing with climate threats as well.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) director HIV, health and development Mandeep Dhaliwal said, “With COVID-19, we can see the urgency of it more readily than some of the impacts of the climate crisis.”
Speaking on an online panel, Dr Dhaliwal said, “But in both cases, we will not be able to ignore anymore that we need to do something about the human activity that’s driving this.”
The online panel was a part of the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, which normally draws 1,200 people, was held online in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Dhaliwal said, “Growing destruction of forests and farming expansion are both driving climate change and bringing people into closer contact with wild animal diseases.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the coronavirus pandemic had its origin in bats, with early infections linked to a large live animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
She said, “Lung-damaging threats such as air pollution, driven by fossil fuel use that also drives climate change, also make people more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses like the coronavirus.”
“Without addressing underlying factors making the pandemic so destructive – from lack of preparedness to underfunded and fragile health systems - the world will “keep lurching from outbreak to outbreak”, said Dr Dhaliwal.
World Health Organization special envoy Dr David Nabarro said, “About a third of the world’s countries were on lockdown. That was forcing leaders into ‘awful political trade-offs’ between protecting lives and keeping economies functioning - the kind of trade-offs that could become more frequent as climate-linked disasters from wildfires to drought worsen.”
“The crisis also showed how overcoming disasters required strong communities and how political leaders need to grasp the intricate connections of the planet’s life systems,” he said.
Without Harm Healthcare head Gary Cohen said, “Climate change, like coronavirus, was a ‘force multiplier’ for economic and social injustices.”
He said, “Those living on the edge, without enough food, with poor or no housing, with no health care, those are the people that are going to suffer most. We’re already seeing that in the response to the COVID-19 crisis.”
But Skoll Foundation investment adviser Liz Diebold, said the virus offered some positive lessons for climate action.
“COVID-19 is really showing us when humanity is united in a common cause, phenomenally rapid change is possible even on seemingly intractable problems,” she said. A