Escaping the ‘Era of Pandemics’: Experts warn worse crises to come and offer options to reduce risk

Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than COVID-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases, warns a major new report on biodiversity and pandemics, convened by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).


The report states that about 1.7 million currently ‘undiscovered’ viruses exist in mammals and birds, of which up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people. “Escaping the ‘era of pandemics’ is possible, but this will require a seismic shift in approach from reaction to prevention” said Dr. Peter Daszak, Chair of the IPBES report. The report emphasizes that the same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment.

The report points that prevention requires structural changes in the way we use land, including the expansion and intensification of agriculture; addressing unsustainable trade, production and consumption patterns which disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people.

“It is imperative to address the underlying structural economic and political causes that increases the intertwined systemic risks of pandemics, biodiversity loss and climate change” said Dr. Unai Pascual, Ikerbasque Professor at the Basque Centre for Climate Change, and one of the co-authors of the report.

At a point where COVID-19 has already costed more than a million lives worldwide, and $8-16 trillion (by July 2020) to the global economy, the report estimates that the cost of reducing risks to prevent new pandemics to be 100 times less than the cost of responding to such pandemics, providing strong economic incentives for transformative change.

The Executive Summary of the Report can be accessed here:

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