Future pandemics will kill more people, happen more frequently, spread more rapidly than the covid-19 unless humans adopt a fundamental stance in treating nature differently, warns a major new report on biodiversity and pandemics.
The UN-sanctioned report, reviewed and prepared by 22 experts from around the world says COVID-19 is at least the sixth pandemic to strike the world, after the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, but will not be the last.
Like in the case of other pandemics that have killed millions in the past, the viruses emerge from animals where they stay reserved, but unanimously get loose in humanity as a result of human activities, the report states.
Escaping the ‘Era of Pandemics‘ is possible, but only with a quantum leap in humans’ acting on to prevent the same, the report says.
Upto 850,000 viruses currently lurk in animals, all potential to infect humans, while another 1.7 million viruses are currently ‘undiscovered’ in mammals and birds, the researchers behind the Pandemics Report states.
“The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment,” Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance and Chair of the IPBES workshop said in a statement.
“Changes in the way we use the land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production, and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens, and people. This is the path to pandemics.”
The report emphasizes, response after the emergence of a pandemic, including fast-tracking vaccine development, taking public health measures, improving technological solutions, are a “slow and uncertain path” that underscores both human suffering and loss of billions of dollars.
“The overwhelming scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion,” Dr. Daszak said, adding “our approach has effectively stagnated – we still rely on attempts to contain and control diseases after they emerge, through vaccines and therapeutics.”
The panel warned, among every five new diseases that emerge among humans have the ability to become a pandemic and suggested reducing exercise consumption meat, wildlife-derived products, and unsustainable commodities, pandemic risks could be significantly lowered.
The report also identified land-use change as a significant driver of pandemics. Thirty percent of the new diseases reported since 1960 were caused by land-use change by humans like a human settlement is primarily wildlife habitat, deforestation, crop and livestock production thurst, and urbanization.
Worse pandemics will cripple economies more than COVID-19. major UN report warns (Image courtesy of IPBES )
Experts have also estimated that the cost of reducing the risk of a pandemic could be 100 times lower than the cost of responding to the same.
The US alone by the fourth quarter of 2021 will have spent over $16 trillion, while the global count of the money spent to support the pandemic-ridden world has already touched upto $8-16 trillion by July 2020.
The report — “an extraordinary peer-reviewed expert publication, representing the perspectives of some of the world’s leading scientists, with the most up-to-date evidence and produced under significant time constraints,” — seeks to underscore the importance of science and technology, and offers “decision-makers new insights into pandemic risk reduction and options for prevention.”