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Merging of COVID & Climate: Study suggests ‘climate change could have played a direct role in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2’ – Links climate to growth in bat populations

Climate change, bats linked to COVID-19 pandemic

Global greenhouse gas emissions over the last century have made southern China a hotspot for bat-borne coronaviruses, by driving growth of forest habitat favored by bats. That’s the finding of a new study published in Science of the Total Environment by a team of researchers, including Camilo Mora from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. It provides the first evidence that climate change could have played a direct role in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study suggests that as climate change altered habitats, species left some areas and moved into others—taking their viruses with them. This not only altered the regions where viruses are present, but most likely allowed for new interactions between animals and viruses, causing more harmful viruses to be transmitted or evolve.

“The fact that climate change can accelerate the transmission of wildlife pathogens to humans should be an urgent wake-up call to reduce global emissions,” said Mora, an associate professor of geography in the College of Social Sciences.

“Understanding how the global distribution of bat species has shifted as a result of climate change may be an important step in reconstructing the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said lead author Robert Beyer, a researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology and research fellow at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany.


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