A study by researchers at the University of Cambridge has found that climate change played a key role in Covid-19 spreading from animals to humans, as the two groups were forced closer together as populations grow.
Scientists examined changes to temperature and rainfall over the last 100 years, specifically modelling bat populations against their habitat needs. They found that climate change had resulted in 40 species relocating during that time to areas in China, Laos and Myanmar. “Bats are the likely zoonotic origin of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2,” the study noted.
The university researchers outlined how this essentially created a Covid-19 “hotspot” in the area, with the bats carrying around 100 strains of the virus throughout the region.
“I find it difficult to see that this climate-driven increase in bats and bat-borne coronaviruses make something like [the pandemic] less likely to happen,” Robert Beyer, the study’s lead author and a zoology researcher at Cambridge, told AFP. However, he clarified that “Our paper is a long way away from saying the pandemic would not have happened without climate change.”
Even though the Covid-19 transmission link between humans and animals has not been fully laid out by scientists, Beyer said research indicates that species and humans being forced into closer contact has resulted in changes to the natural world. Citing habitat destruction and increased development of populated areas, he warned that humans are pushing “the pathogen in our direction.”