Some experts believe climate change may increase the emergence of new animal-to-human transmitted diseases like COVID-19
The coronavirus is thought to be a zoonotic disease, meaning it was likely passed from animals to humans. About 75% of all new infectious diseases are zoonotic. Some experts think that a decline in biodiversity as a result of climate change is putting humans in closer contact with animals. View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.
As the world grinds to a halt, it's clear that the coronavirus pandemic is having a major impact on the environment. What's not so clear is if climate change had an impact on the origin of the virus. Business Insider Today spoke with Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to learn more about the relationship between climate change and diseases like COVID-19. According to Andersen, "the health of our planet plays a super important role in spreading or containing what we refer to as Zoonotic diseases." From what scientists know so far, COVID-19 is likely a zoonotic disease, meaning it was probably transferred from animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases are not uncommon. SARS, MERS, Zika, and Ebola are all zoonotic diseases — and more new ones are emerging. Andersen said that "75% or so of new infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature." Some experts think this increase might be related to an increase in deforestation and the subsequent increase in contact between humans and animal species. One study of Ebola found that the disease was more prevalent in areas that had recently been deforested. "When we encroach on nature, when we destroy forest, when we degrade the environment, then we are disturbing what is supposed to be left undisturbed," said Andersen. The coronavirus crisis is also impacting waste streams as more face masks and medical gowns are used and then thrown away. Andersen noted that many countries may not have the infrastructure or capacity to properly dispose of this waste. "Much of that medical waste will happen in countries that may not have had that amount of medical waste before and will not have treatment for incineration." Andersen warns that in order to prevent future pandemics, it's important to take climate change into consideration. "Let's be smart and think about this. We want to get people back to work, get the economies going again, let's build back better." SEE ALSO: Thousands of scientists in Sweden are criticizing the government for not implementing a lockdown to stop the coronavirus SEE ALSO: There's a global shortage of face masks — but people around the world are using creative methods to make their own Join the conversation about this story »