With President Trump’s decision on U.S. participation in the Paris climate accords expected in the next few days, there has been widespread discussion of the many consequences that climate change will have for us and our children, including extreme weather events, displacement of people, submergence of lands and devastation to our oceans. But one of the most potentially deadly effects has been far less discussed: an increase in the spread of dangerous epidemics and the risk of a global pandemic.
As the Earth’s climate alters, we are seeing changes in where and how humans live; these changes increase the risk that deadly diseases will emerge and spread more rapidly. While the interactions between climate change and disease are hard to predict with certainty, the scientific linkages are unmistakable. If we fail to integrate planning for the impact of climate change with planning for the prevention and management of pandemic disease, the consequences will be deadly.