Doomed Planet

Going Batty Over Climate Change

We live in an age where Climate Change™ has replaced God as the explanation for everything. The list of phenomena it allegedly causes grows ever longer. More and more young people seem to be coming down with climate anxiety and ecological distress. In a recent survey led by Bath University, UK, over half of ten thousand respondents between 16 and 25 believe they are doomed and have no future.

The twenty-sixth United Nations annual climate Conference of the Parties (COP) is only weeks away.  After a quarter of a century of concern and another two billion people on the planet, is it too late to save us from a french-fry fate? Given the sombre mood, an attempt to link climate change with the COVID pandemic was inevitable. As if on cue, a “short communication” appeared in May this year in Science of The Total Environment, Volume 767:

“Shifts in global bat diversity suggest a possible role of climate change in the emergence of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2”.

The three authors: Robert M Beyer and Andrea Manica (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom) and Camilo Mora (Department of Geography and Environment, University of Hawai’I, Manoa). Beyer has since taken up a European research fellowship at the alarmist Potsdam Institute for Climate Hysteria Impact Research. They argue that bats are the likely zoonotic origin of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. The local number of coronaviruses is said to correlate with “bat species richness”, with climate change shifting the global distribution of bats. This “bat richness” has strongly increased the likelihood of SARS-CoV-1 and 2 outbreaks; hence climate change may have been an important factor in these outbreaks.

Here we show that the southern Chinese Yunnan province and neighbouring regions in Myanmar and Laos form a global hotspot of climate change-driven increase in bat richness. This region coincides with the likely spatial origin of bat-borne ancestors of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. Accounting for an estimated increase in the order of 100 bat-borne CoVs across the region, climate change may have played a key role in the evolution or transmission of the two SARS CoVs. (R M Beyer, A Manica and C Mora, 2021)

A simultaneous media release showed how keen the authors are on climate change playing a bigger role in the COVID drama. Surely it too should be addressed “as part of COVID-19 economic recovery programmes.” 

Understanding how the global distribution of bat species has shifted as a result of climate change may be an important step in reconstructing the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak.  (Dr Robert Beyer)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous social and economic damage. Governments must seize the opportunity to reduce health risks from infectious diseases by taking decisive action to mitigate climate change. (Professor Andrea Manica)

The fact that climate change can accelerate the transmission of wildlife pathogens to humans should be an urgent wake-up call to reduce global emissions. (Professor Camilo Mora)

According to Dr Beyer, climate change over the last century in the southern Chinese Yunnan province made it more suitable for bat expansion. A lot can happen in a century. How did the researchers measure vegetation and “anthropogenic land-use” changes – and calculate the increase in bat species – with meaningful precision?

The paper also includes the following qualification:

It is important to note that our inference that climate change may have played a role in the outbreak relies on future evidence remaining supportive of the suggestion made based on the genetic evidence available to date that the ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 was bat-borne and occurred in the Yunnan province or the neighbouring regions. Furthermore, the methods used here to simulate vegetation and to map bat ranges are not without uncertainties and limitations (Beyer and Manica, 2020; Hallgren and Pitman, 2000)……..

The world’s bat population apparently carries around 3,000 different types of coronavirus. Each species “harbours an average of 2.7 coronaviruses — most without showing symptoms”.  At least three have caused fatalities: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) CoV, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) CoV-1 and CoV-2. 

The authors briefly mention other possible influences, such as the “expansion of urban areas, farmland, and hunting grounds into natural habitat”. What if the key driver here was not climate change and increasing bat numbers, but the reverse: expanding human numbers driving more species interaction over the past century, the period considered in the above paper? According to demographers, China’s population increased from about 400 million in 1900 to 1, 283 million in 2000. Today it has 1,395 million people, about 20 per cent of the global population.

As the world now accepts, the first COVID outbreak was in Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province. In December 2019, SARS-CoV-2, a “novel coronavirus” later identified as the cause of COVID-19, was discovered in patients here. What is – or was – less certain is why, and particularly how, the outbreak happened there. Was it connected to the Huanan live-animal “wet” market, site of the first infections and China’s preferred explanation? Or was it the connect-the-dots case that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where they have been studying coronaviruses in bats for over a decade, somehow set loose a genetically amended virus to roam the world. WIV is just a 40-minute drive from the market, the two sites also being linked by a direct subway connection.

But let us set aside the evidence of a lab leak and look instead at the more general aspect of a growing population’s encroaching on nature. Wuhan’s population is about 11 million. In 1950, it was one million. There are 50 million people in Hubei province, twice Australia’s population. Population growth on Wuhan’s – and indeed China’s – scale has increased demand for protein, encouraged expansion of industrial-scale animal farming, and wet- and live-animal markets. It has driven people and animals — including bats — closer together, increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases. Three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases come from animals.

Researchers recently interviewed by the BBC’s Roland Pease in COVID origins: The science all supported a “zoonotic spillover” origin for COVID.

According to geneticist, Michael Worobey, the Huanan market was “stuffed with wild animals just before the pandemic, including species known to be susceptible to infection”, such as ferret badgers and porcupines (31 min.).

Here we document 47,381 individuals from 38 species, including 31 protected species sold between May 2017 and November 2019 in Wuhan’s markets. We note that no pangolins (or bats) were traded, supporting reformed opinion that pangolins were not likely the spillover host at the source of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While we caution against the misattribution of COVID-19’s origins, the wild animals on sale in Wuhan suffered poor welfare and hygiene conditions and we detail a range of other zoonotic infections they can potentially vector. Nevertheless, in a precautionary response to COVID-19, China’s Ministries temporarily banned all wildlife trade on 26th Jan 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic concludes, and permanently banned eating and trading terrestrial wild (non-livestock) animals for food on 24th Feb 2020. Source:  Animal Sales from Wuhan wet markets immediately prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pease also interviewed zoologist Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance. Daszak investigated the initial COVID outbreak in Wuhan and was a member of the WHO team sent to China to try and establish its origin. Worth noting is what might be seen by some — indeed, many — why Daszak would be keen to direct investigatory  curiosity away from the Wuhan lab.

Pease: Peter Daszak’s team just completed a measurement of how often viruses pass from bats to humans in the natural course of things and the numbers are stunning.

Daszak: We found some antibodies to bat coronaviruses in people in rural China prior to the outbreak. It was quite high: three per cent of people in a village. They were probably infected two or three years ago. We estimate that more than 400,000 people a year are infected by bat coronaviruses, excluding the numbers in wildlife farms and markets. They are people directly exposed to bats because they fly over them at night or they live near a bat cave.

Pease: It’s a huge number.

Daszak: Yes, infected with SARS-related coronaviruses. It’s a very specific – obviously high-risk group of viruses. Break it down. Four hundred thousand people infected a year. A few thousand people are getting infected every day, today, right now, somewhere in south-east Asia. They are outbreaks that never get diagnosed because people think its pneumonia or flu. (@36min.)

Pease: If this work is right – it has not been peer-reviewed – then day-after-day SARS-like coronaviruses are knocking at our door. If it happens in a village, it might go no further. In a great city like Wuhan, however, there is a one-in-three chance of it taking hold. Nature is replete with viruses looking for a chance to infect a new host. (@ 37 min.)

COVID’s origins, arguably, have less to do with climate change, and much more to do with what virologist Angela Rasmussen calls “the biohazard in Nature”, and the increasing numbers of people consuming, interacting with, or living near animals, birds and bats in China and elsewhere.

Or living near the Wuhan lab.

10 comments
  • Michael

    Huge change in population, population density, agriculture and industry in Wuhan. Very slight change in climate and bats. So they suggest Covid is linked to the slight change.

    More technically, it sounds like they did only a univariate analysis. A multivariate analysis would be more plausible.

  • Alice Thermopolis

    Dr Beyer: “It is important to note that our inference that climate change may have played a role in the outbreak relies on……”
    One person’s “inference” can be another person’s speculation….

  • ianl

    @Michael

    >”A multivariate analysis would be more plausible.”

    Reappearance of the now missing Wuhan Lab coronavirus database would be even more helpful.

    No matter how hard academic lefties try to lie their way out of the self-evident, an engineered gain of function coronavirus was carelessly leaked from that lab. DTS still lives, we see.

    The Wuhan Airport is on the same domestic subway, just the next (and last) stop from the lab. When Chinese authorities realised the danger they were in, flights from the airport were closed – but only those to Beijing (protecting the upper-end politicians) and Shanghai (protecting the money).

  • Dallas Beaufort

    Bats consume insects which consume cloud meteorite particles which contain flu particles.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    Sounds entirely plausible. Worrying about climate change made someone at the Wuhan Institute cranky or careless, resulting in either a deliberate or inadvertent/negligent release of the virus.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    In the early 1990s I visited Yunnan a number of times. One trip south from Kunming to the tin mining town of Gejiu had a highlight, lunch of genuine birds nest soup after a tour through the adjacent bird and bat cave.
    Sometimes I wonder if the Covid writers of today are trying to scare the soup out of me. So much outlandish conjecture.
    Thirty years ago, the local Chinese referred to Yunnan as the land of eternal Springtime, the weather often being so pleasant. I very much doubt that I would sense any change if I returned now. The differences being attributed to climate change are minuscule, real signals often lost in the noise of measurement and requiring creative statistics to make a (false) case.
    There has been massive population relocation in Yunnan since the 1990s, some of it permitted by electricity expansion. Farming was enabled on lower slopes of the many mountains by electric pumps for watering of crops. Linking this or not to bat displacement or greater human exposure seems typical of post modern science whereby imagination surpasses investigation. Geoff S

  • Alice Thermopolis

    Yes, indeed, as “entirely plausible” as a recent climate modeller paper claiming Arctic warming is “linked to” colder winters: “increases in extreme winter weather in parts of the US are linked to accelerated warming of the Arctic.”
    If warming can cause cooling – “more cold winters in some locations” – evidence of cooling presumably cannot be used as a counter-argument to challenge the global warming scare. A Nobel Prize must be a shoe-in for this flight of fancy.

  • Biggles

    The list of ‘global’warming’ causes grows ever longer as the climate catastrophists search desperately for more phenomena allegedly supporting their cause. The Earth is cooling due to the current Grand Solar Minimum, as residents of the northern hemisphere will find out to their ever-deepening despair in coming years. (BTW Alice; it is shoo-in, not shoe in. Shoo, shoo, shoo, you…)

  • Alice Thermopolis

    Biggles
    A propos the list of phenomena allegedly caused by CC/GW, there were so many the anonymous compiler gave up a decade ago. He/she posted this footnote in September 2015 to explain “why the list stopped growing”:

    “The time it takes to process a new entry increases approximately with the square of the list length, after checking for duplication, spoofs etc. Starting it was based on the naïve assumption that the rate of appearances would decline as opposing evidence accumulated, but the reverse happened. That’s the difference between science and religion. It was taking over my life, which I did not want to end as a garbage collector. There have since been hundreds more claims of an increasingly ludicrous nature.”

    My mother always told me to put my best foot forward, but sometimes – as on this occasion – my “shoo” ended up on the other foot.

  • pmprociv

    Thanks for this well-articulated article. Surely, it must be obvious to all: GW is the cause of China’s massive population growth, and their need to eat more wildlife. (Closer to home, it explains traffic congestion and real estate bubbles.) It’s also causing academics to include GW in all their papers, and grant applications; without it these days, it seems you’d have no chance of scoring funds.
    Seriously, though, having spent a large part of my professional life working on potentially zoonotic infections of flying foxes, I find that “Science of The Total Environment” paper to be mindbogglingly ridiculous; at least it’s riddled with conditionals, asserting nothing definitively (talk about “association-causation confusion”!). Nevertheless, it is a sad reflection on the state of scientific publishing these days, making it easier for, perhaps even encouraging, “fake news” to intrude, just about everywhere.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.