Children on a litter-pick outdoors.

Caring societies are better prepared for COVID-19 and climate change

Key lesson from research: invest in climate action and public health infrastructure.
03 February 2021 , Katie Coyne

Countries where people look after one another and their environment are better prepared for both public health and climate emergencies, a report has found.

A key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the King’s Business School report, is the need for investment in climate action and public health infrastructure to better prepare for future disasters.

In the paper, published in the peer-reviewed World Development journal, researchers looked at data from 110 countries and found that countries facing greater climate risk suffered higher death rates in the pandemic.

However, lower COVID-19 deaths were also associated with greater preparedness for climate risk and ‘collectivist societies’ – defined in the report as where group or societal goals are put above individual needs and preferences.

Gulcin Ozkan, vice dean (staffing) and professor of finance at King's Business School, and a co-author of the report, said: “Scientists have long established links between climate change and pandemics.

“Climate change is known to drive wildlife closer to people, which in turn paves the way for viruses that are harmless in wild animals to be transmitted to humans with deadly consequences.

“In addition, the role of both extreme hot and cold weather in increasing mortality and of warmer climates in spreading diseases have been widely recognised.

"Given such significant role of climate change in health outcomes, and particularly in mortality, our research clearly establishes this link between climate risk, culture and the COVID-19 mortality rate.

“It’s time more countries take the climate emergency seriously and governments should invest in the infrastructure that could have prevented further deaths.”

Access the research, Climate risk, culture and the Covid-19 mortality: A cross-country analysis, here.

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