Our climate is changing. And it is having significant effects on the world around us. From threats of extinction for many species to cities submerged in rising ocean waters, there are many concerns. But one important effect often gets lost in discussions of climate change’s impact: disease transmission.
A new study, in Nature Climate Change, models the long-term effects of climate change on malaria transmission in West Africa. And for once, the results aren’t all bad.
A necessary evil
In West Africa, subsistence farming relies on the regional monsoons. These heavy rains, combined with the flat landscape, also provide female mosquitoes ample puddles where they can lay their eggs. The temperatures are also just right for the mosquitoes to live a full life — two months during which they can bite people and pass on parasites, including the plasmodium parasite which causes malaria.
Although the long-term outlook appears optimistic, Yamana and Bomblies point out that climate change will have many other impacts on the region.
Bomblies notes that food scarcity is the utmost concern of people in West Africa. During his fieldwork, a serious famine caused a food shock there. This illustrated to him just how vulnerable the people of West Africa are to these changes in rainfall, which his models predict are going to decrease in the future.
“While it might be sort of good news that malaria isn’t going to get worse in West Africa,” he cautions, “it by no means, means that there’s going to be no issue with climate change in West Africa.”