Interconnecting Global Threats: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Infectious Diseases

Interconnecting Global Threats: Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, and Infectious Diseases

Climate change, biodiversity loss, and the spread of infectious diseases are three major challenges for planetary health. We know from major reports such as the United Nations’ Global Environmental Outlook and the World Wildlife Funds’ Living Planet Report that sometimes these challenges are linked. But until now, we have not known how common this was.

For the last few years, a small working group has been seeking to answer this question. Now, our first results are out. From a review of over 1.8 million primary research and review articles published between 1975 and 2022, we determined that  a little more than one million studies discussed infectious disease, a few fundred thousand concerned climate change, and the balance, another few hundred thousand considered biodiversity.  The intersection of these is telling. While we found that 17,580 publications discussed the connections between infectious disease and biodiversity and 17,652 articles examined the links between biodiversity and climate change, only 4,751 publications reviewed the interactions between infectious disease and climate change. What’s more when we searched for publications that specifically discussed the interactions among all three we found only 29 papers quantified their interaction and 7 of these concerned Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the fungus responsible for chytridiomycosis in global amphibian species. 

We believe that there are several reasons why the mechanistic links between infectious disease, climate change, and biodiversity loss have not been adequately studied.  One is the continued existence of siloed research cultures. Another is inadequate interdisciplinary research.   

We recognize that achieving planetary health, i.e. the global health of animals, people and the environment, is a massive undertaking. But it is worth it. To me, it’s the only possible goal. To achieve this goal, the international scientific community must reassess how infectious diseases, climate change, and biodiversity loss are mechanistically linked so that we can identify effective management solutions and avoid ecological surprises.  

Our research was published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Corresponding author: John Drake,