Global Catastrophic Biological Risks
Global catastrophic biological risks (GCBRs) can have a massive impact on humanity — affecting people’s lives, the global economy, and international relations. Regardless of whether they’re naturally occurring, accidental, or manmade, the risk of GCBRs is only increasing. Despite the immense threat they pose, the problem of biosecurity is generally overlooked and under-prioritized.
Throughout history there have been numerous plagues (the Spanish Flu in the 1920s, the Bubonic plague in the 1500s, etc.) which have taken many lives. However, now in the 21st century, as a result of urbanization and biotechnology innovation, the probability of pandemics and biological risks will only continue to increase. Also, greater human population density, modern day trade and air travel allow much faster and wider transmission. Climate change may increase the likelihood of new emerging diseases.
With 219 million cases and nearly 4.5 million deaths, the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly destructive. Through the experience, we’ve learned that the biology that protects and nurtures us can also very quickly wreak havoc on our daily lives.
COVID-19 has shown us only a small fraction of the potential danger of a virus. The SARS‑CoV‑2 virus isn’t anywhere near the maximum threshold for how damaging a GCBR could be. In the future, we could be faced with viruses with far higher mortality and mutation rates.
Livestock and animal owners would be the first affected by the spread of harmful organisms to their livestock and animals. While farm animals contract pathogens from natural sources, they pose a health hazard to humans through unintentional transmissions. Diseases that spread from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases.
A few examples of how zoonotic diseases are transmitted include: direct contact; inhalation of aerosols, which are disease agents spread through the air…