The Grapevine

Climate Change Is Going To Kill A Lot Of People, Biologist Says

A new study gives a terrifying warning of how humanity would suffer from the deadly impacts of climate change in the coming years. Researchers found that the warming planet can make mosquitoes even deadlier, mainly allowing the insects to survive winter and spread and bring virus faster across the world.

"Plain and simple, climate change is going to kill a lot of people," biologist Colin Carlson, a postdoctoral fellow in Georgetown University and co-author of the study, said, adding that mosquito-borne diseases are likely to spread from tropical regions to temperate countries.

Mosquitoes have been widely considered as among the most deadly animals in the world. It has been linked to infectious diseases such as as malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever, which cause millions of deaths every year, Popular Science reported Thursday.

The new study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, predicts that the ongoing climate change could boost mosquitoes’ ability to carry viruses and cause volatile outbreaks in environments previously not considered vulnerable, including the U.S.

"We've known about Zika since 1947, and we watched it slowly spread around the world until 2015, when it arrived in Brazil and suddenly we had an explosive epidemic on our hands. Chikungunya has done something not too different from that,” Carlson said.

"These viruses proliferate quickly in populations that don't have any immunity —and we're very scared about that. If you only have one month that's warm enough for outbreaks, the question is: 'how much damage you can do?' For viruses like these, it's a lot," he added. 

The researchers found that global warming will expose almost all of the world's population to common disease-carrying mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, in the next 50 years. Warmer winters will also allow more mosquitoes to survive.

Researcher Sadie Ryan, of the University of Florida's emerging pathogens institute and associate professor of medical geography, pointed out that while the winter months are predicted to decrease, the months suitable for mosquitoes to thrive will increase. The enhanced survival of mosquitoes could then pose a serious problem to many people.

The East African portion of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to see the largest effect of the sudden spread of mosquitoes.