(8 February 2021) Scientists at Cambridge university published research last month linking climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, but it may not be what you think. Early in the pandemic, speculation and initial research suggested a potential relationship between seasonal weather conditions and the spread of COVID-19. What the researchers at Cambridge have found is a link between shifts in global bat diversity, climate change, and the evolution or transmission of the two SARS coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-1 (the virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic) and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease).  

  • The research from Cambridge shows that climate changes have shifted global bat diversity and distribution. Increases in the average temperature and concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere led to changes in the types of vegetation cover, which created favorable environments for many species of bats in Southern China and neighboring regions in Myanmar and Laos.
  • Bats stand out in the animal kingdom as the leading carriers of zoonotic viruses, including an estimated 3,000 different coronaviruses (CoVs).

Why does this matter? The researchers also found that bat richness has strongly increased in the likely geographic origins of both SARS-CoV-1 and 2. If you assume the warming of the Earth for the next century is inevitable, the next COVID outbreak becomes just a matter of time.

  • The National Centers for Environmental Information estimates that the decadal global land and ocean surface average temperature anomaly for 2011–2020 was the warmest decade on record for the globe, with a surface global temperature of +0.82°C (+1.48°F) above the 20th century average. This surpassed the previous decadal record (2001–2010) value of +0.62°C (+1.12°F).

Coronavirus Data and Insights

Live data and insights on Coronavirus around the world, including detailed statistics for the US, EU, and China — confirmed and recovered cases, deaths, alternative data on economic activities, customer behavior, supply chains, and more.

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