Aug 24, 2021

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A pandemic worse than Covid-19: Climate Change will lead to the spread of more diseases

The world's forests are shrinking, with only 15% of the planet's forests intact. With technological advancements and the growing prosperity of mankind, forests are being cut down to meet the needs of a dynamic society. To provide for the growing population, forests are destroyed to make way for more houses. In the twenty-first century, people's needs have evolved to living in a house with electricity, having transportation to get to their jobs, and being entertained through the internet. To meet these needs, the emission level of greenhouse gases are ever increasing due to power plants, internal combustion engine vehicles and more.  

With the rise in greenhouse gases emissions, most are aware that this will lead to an increase in global temperature and will contribute to climate change.However, there is a lurking danger of climate change, which is the potential spread of new deadly diseases. For example, greenhouse gases includes sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, and carbon. These gases are invasive and when introduced to the body's bloodstream and lungs, it will result in serious health effects and weakening the human immune system. Apart from the greenhouse gases, viruses may use air pollution particles as a mode of transport to invade the human body. With an already weakened human immune system, the effects of invading viruses will be greatly amplified, and some might become even more deadly.

During the ice age, diseases are more deadly, with the ability to infect larger hosts. Some of these deadly diseases have been locked away over time within a frozen prison. The rise of global temperatures due to climate change, exacerbates the outbreak of these long-dormant diseases trapped in ice and permafrost over centuries. This poses a great threat to humanity as most of these diseases are unknown and could be deadlier than anything seen before. Once released, these viruses require a host, and unfortunately, a spectrum of artic animals will be the first to be infected. These viruses can be transmitted to humans through these animals.Moreover, there are humans living in the artic and potential exposure to the long-dormant viruses may be inevitable.

Aside from the Arctic, there are many unknown viruses that live deep in the forests. Animals are potential hosts and carriers of these viruses and fruit bats are just one of the many examples. Increased deforestation activity to make way for farms or industrial use, will bring people closer to a new transmission of viruses. Deforestation will lead to the loss of natural habitat for these animals. There is an imminent risk that animals, such as fruit bats which are hosts of these viruses, will have to succumb to living with humans.This will have an effect on the food chain and ecosystem, raising the possibility of transmitting these viruses to the human population.

With climate change, the spread of vector-borne infectious diseases is increasing. Climate change is increasing temperatures and precipitation in certain parts of the world. These favorable conditions allow insects like mosquitoes to thrive, leading to a greater spread of insect-borne infectious diseases. Places with temperate temperatures, such as Europe and North America, are now threatened by the same diseases that were once found only in the tropics.

Undeniably, climate change will lead to the spread of more diseases. With the current pandemic of the Coronavirus, the livelihood of many have been severely affected. Students have had to adjust to fully studying from home and working professionals have had to deal with the fear of being fired from their jobs. If nothing is done to curb climate change, diseases in the future could be much more deadly than Covid-19 and there might be worse consequences. Lockdowns could last much longer, and more people might lose their job. Fear would be integrated into the lives of many and the definition of a ‘new normal’ will once again have to be redefined.

 

Mother Theresa once said “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” This suggests that our daily actions affect the climate in more ways than we imagine. Yes, our actions may be small, but these actions will lead to people being influenced to follow your footstep. Small and repeated actions to protect the climate leads to impactful and fulfilling results. But change only starts with you!

This article is written by a group of student volunteers from Temasek Polytechnic.
Co-authors:
- Bryan Ng Chang Lin
- Alson Ng Jun Rong
- Aliah Umairah Reduan
- Brian Kerk Yong Biao
- Lau Wei Jian

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