Potential impacts of pandemics on global warming, agricultural production, and biodiversity loss

Yuankang Xiong (熊元康), Rong Wang (王戎)*, Thomas Gasser, Philippe Ciais, Josep Peñuelas, Jordi Sardans, James H. Clark, Junji Cao (曹军骥), Xiaofan Xing (邢晓帆), Siqing Xu (徐思清), Yifei Deng (邓艺菲), Lin Wang (王琳), Jianmin Chen (陈建民), Xu Tang (汤绪), Renhe Zhang (张人禾)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rising frequency of infectious diseases under climate change poses an emerging threat to environmental and agricultural sustainability by consuming large quantities of materials. The demand for crops to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) competes for land and fertilizers, leads to cropland expansion, and accelerates climate change, but the ecological impacts remain unclear. Here we explore the impacts of pandemics on global warming, agricultural production, and biodiversity loss in an Earth system model by developing relationships between consumption of PPE and the rate of infection during COVID-19. Meeting the demand for PPE would increase production of cotton lint, corn, and natural rubber, which accelerates global warming by 0.2°C with 1.8% additional species losses by 2100. Our results suggest that the risks of public health, food security, climate change, and ecological integrity have been connected to each other, which should be considered when predicting the impacts of future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-713
Number of pages17
JournalOne Earth
Issue number4
Early online date15 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 42341205, no. 41877506) and the National Key R&D Program of China (no. 2022YFF0802504). R.W. R.Z. X.T. and J.C. acknowledge support from the Shanghai International Science and Technology Partnership Project (21230780200). P.C. acknowledges support from the ANR CLAND Convergence Institute 16-CONV-0003. J.P. and J.S. acknowledge financial support from the Catalan Government grant AGAUR-2020PANDE00117. T.G. acknowledges support from the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation program (RESCUE, grant no. 101056939) and Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (ESM2025, grant no. 101003536). X.X. acknowledges support from the Cultivation Project of Science and Technology Innovation Action Plan in Shanghai 2023 (Yangfan: 23YF1401500) and the Young Scientists Fund of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no.42307128). R.W. led the project, conceived the research, and designed the study. Y.X. X.X. and Y.D. compiled data, performed the research, and prepared graphs. T.G. and S.X. provided tools simulating climate change. P.C. J.P. J.S. J.H.C. X.T. and R.Z. provided tools analyzing the impact of climate change on crop yields. P.C. J.P. J.S. L.W. and J. Chen provided tools analyzing the ecological consequence of climate change and LUC. T.G. and S.X. provided tools analyzing the implications for risk interconnectivity and governance. J. Cao provided tools analyzing the impact of green production. R.W. wrote the first draft of the paper and supplemental information. All authors critically revised successive drafts of the paper and approved the final version. The authors declare no competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s)


  • adaptation strategy
  • climate change
  • COVID-19
  • ecological integrity
  • food security
  • mitigation strategy
  • pandemics

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