Climate Change, Pathogens, and Following the Money

I’ve brought up the connection between climate change (to the extent of the warming and melting of permafrost) and an increased rate of new pathogens, before. Here are some new studies about that connection.

Salon, Matthew Rozsa, 20 Oct 2022: Melting glaciers could spread mysterious pathogens that cause future pandemics, scientists warn, subtitled “Rushing water flowing out from glaciers could spread viruses and bacteria at a much faster rate across species”

Enter a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study raises the Lovecraftian prospect that glacier melt like that which will run off from Lake Hazen will help spread pandemics.


A paper published by the journal Nature in May also highlighted the fact that, as climate change causes animals to move to different regions, they will be exposed to new viromes and will in turn make humans more vulnerable to new types of viral infections. “Our findings highlight an urgent need to pair viral surveillance and discovery efforts with biodiversity surveys tracking species’ range shifts, especially in tropical regions that harbor the most zoonoses and are experiencing rapid warming,” the authors of the May study concluded.


Another story about the same study:

Guardian, Linda Geddes, 18 Oct 2022: Next pandemic may come from melting glaciers, new data shows, subtitled “Analysis of Arctic lake suggests viruses and bacteria locked in ice could reawaken and infect wildlife”

The next pandemic may come not from bats or birds but from matter in melting ice, according to new data.

Genetic analysis of soil and lake sediments from Lake Hazen, the largest high Arctic freshwater lake in the world, suggests the risk of viral spillover – where a virus infects a new host for the first time – may be higher close to melting glaciers.

I assume that people who don’t “believe” in climate change rest assured they will not be affected.


Salon, Mark Schapiro, 20 Oct 2022: Exposing the financial costs of climate change – and denial of the climate crisis, subtitled “As a warming planet brings economic tensions to a boil, following the money can reveal some critical stories”

Fossil fuel companies have received at least $20 billion annually in federal and state government subsidies over the past 10 years alone, and as much as $6 trillion from governments worldwide. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres declared in September that the industry was “feasting off subsidies” while our planet burns.


This great piece in Nature gets as close as I’ve seen to an explanation for why the helping hands given to the petrochemical companies can be difficult to report. Fundamentally, it’s because they’re so deeply woven into obscure tax codes and provisions of the national budget. Challenges notwithstanding, there are many vital stories to be written on taxpayer-supported handouts to oil and gas entities.

And now some (Republican-led, of course) states are penalizing firms that are trying to divest themselves from fossil fuels companies. Let the planet burn!

Politico detailed how West Virginia’s Republican state treasurer was about to place at least six major financial firms on a blacklist for state funds due to their attempts to, slowly but steadily, shift their investments away from fossil fuels. By the time Biden signed the IRA, in August, the state treasurers of at least five other states — Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Florida — had also established, or announced their intention to establish, their own often overlapping blacklists of financial firms retreating from fossil fuel investments.

Among the blacklisted companies are Wells Fargo, BlackRock, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

The piece ends:

Climate change is causing the creation of divergent economies — those that recognize how profoundly it alters calculations of risk and economic fortune, and those that refuse to acknowledge those risks even as the costs rise. Blindness to financial risk would be a sure sign that a CEO has lost his or her business savvy. Abundant reporting opportunities lie in the split reality emerging between those who acknowledge the risks ahead and those who fail to see them.

I take this as an extended example of how conservative orthodoxy, e.g. science and climate change denial, is clashing more and more disastrously with reality. Businesses have to evaluate and mitigate risks, or they will not survive. As do nations.


Some key evidence about how some people recognize that climate change is real, despite the politics of those who support them, are insurance companies, and the military.

Insurance companies, for example, are re-evaluating the wisdom of financing the rebuilding of homes and businesses that get wiped out by hurricanes, or floods. This was a topic of news stories in the wake of Hurricane Ian, though I don’t have a particular link about it at the moment.

As for the military, here is a recent example:

CBS News, 60 Minutes, 25 Sep 2022: “We have no time to lose” – Rescuing the world’s coral reefs (video)

While rescuing the coral reefs is an admirable project for maintaining the planet’s biosphere (a theme of Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, review here), a key point of this story is who is funding this particular coral reef restoration project. The US military. To protect coastal military bases.

This entry was posted in Conservative Resistance, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.