Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Climate Change: Driving the Spread of Ebola

By Kavin LamPublished October 21, 2014

As Ebola threatens American soil and the lives of medical professionals, was this our fault? Did Americans force the disease to spread? Global climate change has already increased the frequency of infectious diseases, posing especially dire threats to underdeveloped countries.

By Kavin Lam, 10/21/14

<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">Natural disasters <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">most are especially detrimental to impoverished communities around the world <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">because they easily destroy <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">cheaply-built homes and undeveloped infrastructure. These communities <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">have a difficult time responding to catastrophes and rebuilding<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">, particularly due to weak governance. Due to the effects of global warming, poor areas will be devastated by even more disasters in the future.

<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">Many natural disasters have been linked to global weather shifts due caused by global warming. According to the <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">New England Journal of Medicine,  there have been three times as many climate<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">- related natural disasters from 2000-2009 than from 1980-1989. These phenomena in 2013 alone<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> include the amplification of Winter Storm Atlas in South Dakota that dumped 55 inches of snow,  massive mid-September rains that flooded more than a dozen cities in Colorado,  California's persistent drought conditions. 

<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) <span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">reports that the poorest countries will experience the most devastating effects of global warming.  In East Africa, drought- prone areas will become even drier while Southeast Asia will experience even more extreme monsoons<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">. Average temperatures are expected to <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">increase<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> by 4<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">°<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">C by 2100<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">, <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">which would devastate crops. Saleemul Huq<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:="" 107%;font-family:"times="" roman";background:white"="" style=""> notes, <span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman";="" background:white"="" style="">"The IPCC makes the case that climate change is real and happening much more strongly than before. We are already seeing the effects of climate change in Bangladesh and across south Asia. It's not news to us. Most developing countries are facing climate change now. They do not need the IPCC to tell them that the weather is changing"

With more <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">extreme weather, farming is <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">also <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">becoming <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">tougher. Droughts and floods are wiping out crops and pushing people deeper into poverty. <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">This will drive poor West African populations to rely on cheaper bush meat for food, which has often contained the Ebola virus<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">. <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">Ebola is especially potent because animals, namely bats and monkeys, can incubate it for several years<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">and then transmit it to humans. Impoverished community hospitals that are poorly constructed and over-crowded provide <span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">perfect <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">breeding grounds for <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">Ebola<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">to <span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">rapidly <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">spread<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">.
<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman";mso-fareast-font-family:calibri;="" mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-ansi-language:en-us;mso-fareast-language:="" en-us;mso-bidi-language:ar-sa"="" style=""> 
<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">G<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">lobal warming <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">has a direct <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">impact <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">impact on the spread of diseases. <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">As <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">sustenance farming <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">becom<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">es<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> more <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">challenging<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">,<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> people are moving into large cities<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">, which<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style=""> are dangerous zones for vector-borne<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">diseases such as West Nile virus and <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">water<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">-<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">borne disease<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">s<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> such as<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> cholera. <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">Diseases like Ebola are especially dangerous because they are very infectious.<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">Poor sanitation and high population <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">concentrations densities make <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">these <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">cities <span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">easy <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">prime areas for disease transmi<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">ssion. These factors will only be exacerbated by<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> global warming <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">and more natural disasters, which <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">ha<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">ve<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">s<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> been <span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style="">associated<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">with increases in <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">infectious diseases such as m<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">alaria, Dengue <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">f<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">ever, Lyme disease, and <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">c<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">holera.<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style=""> <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">The effects of these diseases are exacerbated because of global warming's negative impact on air quality, while i<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">ncreases in ground level ozone<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> is responsible for lung disease.

Even though we do not know<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style=""> the <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">full extent of global warming<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">'s <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">disproportionate effects<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> on<span "font-size:10.0pt;line-height:107%;font-family:="" "times="" roman""="" style=""> impoverished <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">communities, <span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style="">it definitely risks<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> the spread of infectious diseases like Ebola<span "font-size:10.0pt;="" line-height:107%;font-family:"times="" roman""="" style=""> that must be eradicated.



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