New Study Says Climate Change Is Increasing Environmental
Outbreaks of human malaria, butterflies beset with parasites,
disease-stricken corals, and trees overgrown with fungus.
That is the gloomy
picture of tomorrow's planet painted by scientists in
the United States.
After sifting through hundreds of scientific papers, they
warn that infectious diseases will rise as the world gets
One consequence is
that entire species of animals could be wiped out.
Human tropical diseases
may spread outside their normal geographical range, affecting
more and more people.
Endangered wild animals
such as lions and eagles could also succumb to infections.
The warning comes in
a review published in the journal Science.
According to the team
of US experts, it is the first broad look at the effect
of climate change on various pathogens of crops, plants,
wild animals and humans.
Dr Richard Ostfeld of the New York-based Institute of Ecosystem
Studies told BBC News Online: "Disease now has to be considered
another main player on the climate warming stage.
"We need to be taking
climate warming much more seriously than we currently
"By 'we' I refer to
international agencies but also the US Government."
Driving the predicted
rise in infectious diseases are changes in temperature,
rainfall, and humidity, which give bugs a boost.
The theory is that
pathogens would be able to spread over a wider range,
and increase their survival rate.
might also "stress" plants and animals, making them more
susceptible to infection, say the scientists, led by Professor
Drew Harvell of Cornell University.
They are calling for
further research into the likely impact of climate change
on disease, including:
Dr Ute Collier, head of climate change at the global environment
network World Wide Fund for Nature said she was not surprised
by the findings.
- Surveys of the amount
of disease present in wild animal populations
- Investigating the
effects of different climate variables - temperature,
moisture, etc - on disease
- Better forecasting
of outbreaks of disease linked to climate among crops
- Looking at how quickly
pathogens can adapt to changes.
"Climate change is
a monster of many faces and this study underlines the
multiple stresses it puts on people, wildlife and the
environment," she told BBC News Online.
"The increasing risk
of infectious diseases will put an additional strain on
species struggling to adapt to a climate that is changing
faster than ever before.
"Our future health,
as well as that of our planet, depends on us tackling
this global threat now."