Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Climate change
There is no evidence of a direct connection between climate change and the emergence or transmission of COVID-19 disease. As the disease is now well established in the human population, efforts should focus on reducing transmission and treating patients.
However, climate change may indirectly affect the COVID-19 response, as it undermines environmental determinants of health, and places additional stress on health systems. More generally, most emerging infectious diseases, and almost all recent pandemics, originate in wildlife, and there is evidence that increasing human pressure on the natural environment may drive disease emergence. Strengthening health systems, improved surveillance of infectious disease in wildlife, livestock and humans, and greater protection of biodiversity and the natural environment, should reduce the risks of future outbreaks of other new diseases.
What can the global responseto COVID-19 teach us about our response to climate change?
The COVID-19 pandemic is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which has claimed lives, and severely disrupted communities. Climate change is a gradually increasing stress that may be the defining public health threat of the 21st century. Nonetheless, common lessons can be drawn:
Ensuring universal health coverage (UHC), through well-resourced, equitable health systems, is essential to protect the public from both short and long-term health threats.
Guaranteeing global health security requires an all-hazards approach to preparedness, from infectious disease outbreaks, to extreme weather events, to climate change.
Ensuring access to the environmental determinants of health, such as clean air, water and sanitation, safe and nutritious food, is an essential protection against all health risks. WHO estimates that avoidable environmental risks cause about a quarter of the global health burden.
Early action saves lives. Delay in responding to clear evidence of threats, whether from pandemics, or from climate change, increases human and socioeconomic costs.
Inequality is a major barrier in ensuring health and wellbeing, especially for the most vulnerable in society. Social and economic inequality manifests in unequal health risks. When faced with public health threats of a global scale, such as COVID-19 or climate change, we are only as strong as our weakest health system.