Halt the climate and nature-loss crises to prevent more pandemics, scientists tell world leaders

Jane Dalton, The Independent/ Carbon Brief summary.

In a new report, experts have warned that preventing future pandemics depends on tackling biodiversity loss and climate change, the Independent says. The publication from the UN-established Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) says that unless there is a massive shift in human activity, the world will face further disease outbreaks, the news outlet explains. The report says: “The underlying causes of pandemics are the same global environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss and climate change. These include land-use change, agricultural expansion and intensification, and wildlife trade and consumption.” IPBES found that about half of an estimated 1.7m undiscovered viruses in nature might be able to infect people, Reuters reports, adding that activities such as trading in wildlife, poaching or clearing forest to grow soy or palm oil can bring humans and pathogens into closer proximity. The report says that curbing intensive meat production would help alleviate pandemic risk, says the i newspaper, as would a tax on meat. IPBES chair Dr Peter Daszak tells the paper that a levy on the production or consumption of meat was a “viable strategy” for reducing the risk of pandemics as well as improving public health and the climate. He said: “It’s bad for our health, we know that. And it’s also unsustainable in terms of its environmental impact. It’s also a driver of pandemic risk…We can continue to eat meat, but we need to do it in a way that is far more sustainable if we want to get rid of pandemics.” (Carbon Brief recently published an interactive on the climate impact of meat and dairy.) The report notes that preventing pandemics could be more than 100 times cheaper than tackling their deadly effects, BBC News says. The Guardian adds the costs of changing land use practices “would be ‘trivial’, the experts found, compared with the trillions of dollars of damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic alone.” The Daily TelegraphHill and BusinessGreen also cover the report, while Carbon Brief has previously published a Q&A on the links between climate change, biodiversity loss and pandemics. Finally, Axios reports that the “pandemic is throwing a wrench into Americans’ understanding of science, which has big implications for climate change”. It adds: “Recent focus groups in battleground states suggest some voters are more sceptical of scientists in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, while surveys reveal the persistence of a deep partisan divide.”