Interconnecting global threats: climate change, biodiversity loss, and infectious diseases

Elsevier, The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 8, April 2024
Pfenning-Butterworth A., Buckley L.B., Drake J.M., Farner J.E., Farrell M.J., Gehman A.-L.M. et al.

The concurrent pressures of rising global temperatures, rates and incidence of species decline, and emergence of infectious diseases represent an unprecedented planetary crisis. Intergovernmental reports have drawn focus to the escalating climate and biodiversity crises and the connections between them, but interactions among all three pressures have been largely overlooked. Non-linearities and dampening and reinforcing interactions among pressures make considering interconnections essential to anticipating planetary challenges. In this Review, we define and exemplify the causal pathways that link the three global pressures of climate change, biodiversity loss, and infectious disease. A literature assessment and case studies show that the mechanisms between certain pairs of pressures are better understood than others and that the full triad of interactions is rarely considered. Although challenges to evaluating these interactions—including a mismatch in scales, data availability, and methods—are substantial, current approaches would benefit from expanding scientific cultures to embrace interdisciplinarity and from integrating animal, human, and environmental perspectives. Considering the full suite of connections would be transformative for planetary health by identifying potential for co-benefits and mutually beneficial scenarios, and highlighting where a narrow focus on solutions to one pressure might aggravate another.