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Global warming and climate change can play a role in disease spread and pandemics – WKOW

(WKOW) — On Thursday, the world celebrates its second Earth Day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out more of our coverage on the climate here.

Environmental issues like global warming and climate change are likely top of mind, but people may not realize that they play a role in disease spread and pandemics.

For instance, the gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere produces extreme weather like droughts and hurricanes. Sometimes, this extreme weather can displace certain animal species, which can bring them in closer contact with humans and result in some severe health consequences.

“This then facilitates cross-species transmission so that viruses can be transmitted from these wild animal species onto humans, and thereby cause outbreaks,” said Dr. Michaela Gack, the director of Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Research and Innovation Center.

Disease-causing organisms are emerging faster than ever before, and the interval between outbreaks is getting shorter.

Plus, there’s the possibility that long-dormant viruses that were frozen in ice could be released by thawing polar regions.

Gack says that while we can’t control some of the natural aspects of climate change, we can make a difference on the human impact side.

“I think all of us can contribute to reducing the burden on the environment,” she said. “I think many of these could be easily done, some of these steps, and thereby we could really make a difference in at least one aspect and the part we can control in terms of climate change.”

For instance: Instead of driving to work, consider biking or walking to cut down on the carbon emissions that you emit into the atmosphere.

While every little bit helps, a 2017 study found that nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions between 1880 and 2010 came from 90 corporations like Chevron, ExxonMobil and BP.

Gack says that in the last 20 years, several viral outbreaks have been linked to a combination of human and environmental factors, including SARS, MERS, and Ebola.

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