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Disease spread: heating and stirring the global viral soup
Simulations show that rising global temperatures and changes in land use will drive new encounters between mammalian species. This could lead to an increase in virus- sharing events that might threaten both wildlife and humans.
Rachel E. Baker is in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA, and at the Princeton High Meadows Environmental Institute, Princeton University.
The year 2020 will remain a defining one of recent history — for, not one, but two, reasons. While the world’s attention was focused on the emergence, spread and evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, by January 2021, atmospheric scientists had reported another stark fact: 2020 was the second-warmest year on record globally, and the warmest ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere (see go.nature.com/3wywzmd). Could these two distinct crises of our time — pathogen emergence and anthropogenic climate change — be linked? Writing in Nature, Carlson et al.1 conclude that they could. Theirs is one of the first systematic analyses to explore the implications of climate change for cross-species virus sharing — a key step in pathogen emergence.