The response from governments and private industry to the Coronavirus pandemic has been and will continue to be, unprecedented. Rightfully so. The threat that Coronavirus poses to the world’s health is significant.
But after we slow its spread and develop a vaccine to mitigate it like the flu, one of the greatest imminent threats to humanity will remain: climate change.
In fact, if we don’t do something about our increasingly warmer world, this will certainly not be the last global pandemic we experience—perhaps in our lifetimes.
This Business Insider story explains the link between climate change and zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, SARS, MERS, Zika, and Ebola—and the probability that new diseases will emerge.
Symptoms of climate change such as deforestation and the subsequent increasing contact between humans and animal species are contributing to the increase in zoonotic outbreaks. Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says that 75 percent of new infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature.
In order to prevent future pandemics, we need to take climate change into consideration.
Earlier this year, Greta Thunberg was at DAVOS with other Gen Xers urging world leaders to finally act en masse against climate change. Despite increasing awareness amongst the general population about climate change, countries have still not been able to band together and take sweeping collective action to stop or slow the impacts. It was starting to feel like an impossible ask.
But we’ve learned through the coronavirus crisis, that action on a large scale is indeed possible and can happen swiftly to prevent or slow an imminent threat.
In a piece for Fast Company, Jeremy Deaton explains how the ways we’ve treated coronavirus can help us learn how to treat climate change.
Deaton notes that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have taken a stance on stomping out misinformation. Even TikTok, the dance app more popular amongst a younger set, maintains an informational banner about Coronavirus. These are actions none of the sites currently take for other important topics: elections, mass shootings, and climate change.
The media has also acted as a gatekeeper to prevent or even shame people who are spreading any doubt about the validity of the dangers of coronavirus.
Celebrities like actors Tom Hanks and Idris Elba, and rapper Cardi B have spoken up about COVID-19. When the surgeon general asked socialite and makeup entrepreneur Kylie Jenner to make an announcement about the seriousness of COVID-19, she did and then donated a million dollars to help the efforts.
Countries mobilized mass testing, shut their borders, and ordered people to stay home.
So, we see collective action is possible and clearly impactful. In Deaton’s piece, he emphasizes that we can apply these same strategies to fighting disinformation about climate change.
However, until the world starts treating climate change like it’s treating coronavirus, the biotech industry continues to work.
One reason we already have a baseline understanding of COVID-19 and new test treatments are popping up rapidly is because biotech never rests. The research and development have been going on in the background all along concerning similar ailments. The industry was able to pivot and apply learnings at breakneck speed.
And that’s how the biotech industry is treating climate change.
Our industry is working on alternative plastics that are biodegradable and compostable, fuels with zero carbon footprint, foods that can grow in increasingly hotter temperatures, foods resistant to pests and diseases caused by climate change, developing microbes that can revive dead soil, and countless other impacts. We are also advocating for policy that will break down barriers to human and animal health innovation.
When the time finally comes for the rest of the world to take climate change seriously, we’ll already be ready.