In H.G. Wells’ classic novel, The War of the Worlds, humanity is set upon by an unbeatable army of technologically-advanced aliens. All of mankind’s defenses barely slow the marauding army as it swiftly conquers humanity leaving the survivors to hide and try to survive. In the end, nature saved humanity by infecting the aliens with microbes that were novel to their alien immune systems.
The novel coronavirus feels like a “black swan” type catastrophe. I’m old enough to have lived through three or perhaps four of these panics: The 1999 Y2K panic, September 11, and the 2008 financial crash. Gather around, young people, for some unsolicited optimism about this current crisis.
There are signs that nature will save humanity from this virus. The main reason? Coronavirus doesn’t seem to do well in warm weather.
Outside of China, the top infection zones are Iran (10,075 cases), South Korea (7,869 cases), Italy (12,462 cases), France (2,284 cases), Spain (2,277 cases) and Germany (2,078 cases). Tehran, the apparent epicenter of Iran’s infection, has an average March temperature high of 61 degrees and a low of 44 degrees. South Korea’s epicenter, Daegu, averages 54 and 38. One of Italy’s top infection zones, Bergamo, averages 57 and 39. In the United States, Seattle appears to be our top infection zone. Its temperatures in March average 52 and 42.
Contrast that to countries near China that have remained relatively unscathed. India has a mere 73 cases but averages temperatures of 91 and 70 in March. Vietnam, which shares a border with China, has a mere 39 cases. Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, has an average March high of 93 and a low of 76. Thailand has had only 70 cases. It’s capital, Bangkok averages March temperatures of 94 and 78.
Hot places seem also to have fewer deaths. Vietnam has had no deaths. Cambodia, only one. India, only one. In contrast, Italy has had nearly 1,300 deaths as of this writing.
There are exceptions. Canada has had only 117 cases and a single death. But the trend appears encouraging: As the summer sun warms our environment, so nature may slow this terrifying pandemic. Even more encouraging, the warm climates seem to feature a lower mortality rate. Fewer people catch the virus but even fewer die from it.
Is it possible to simulate these effects by turning up thermostats? By wearing heavier clothing? By exercising vigorously? It’s not known at this point. But a summer slow-down of the virus would buy critical breathing space for scientists to study and develop more effective countermeasures.
As for the economic impact of the virus, there’s reason for optimism there, too. The fallout from the supply interruption of Chinese-based manufacturing doesn’t appear likely to spread to warmer venues such as Mexico, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The disruption in China will have a permanent effect of forcing the world to reduce its vulnerability to supply chains dependent on China. Long-term, that’s a good thing.
In the short term, China has not yet recovered but nevertheless is operating at around 50 percent capacity. Many people predicted dire projections about coming pharmaceutical shortages because so many drugs are made in China. But, as a result of a major fiscal year 2016-17 supply disruption, “domestic companies have diversified their sourcing away from China. Accordingly, API imports more than halved to USD 408 million in FY2018 from USD 866 million in FY2014.”
Bottom line: The world is not about to end. Coronavirus, and the reaction to the pandemic, obviously will cause major disruptions. But as the weather warms, we have reason to hope for a respite.
Yes, ironically, the key to humanity’s salvation (not doom) might be in global warming.