Future pandemics will happen more often, kill more people and wreak even worse damage to the global economy than Covid-19 without a fundamental shift in how humans treat nature, the United Nations’ biodiversity panel said Thursday. Warning that there are up to 850,000 viruses which, like the novel coronavirus, exist in animals and may be able to infect people, the panel known as IPBES said pandemics represented an “existential threat” to humanity. Authors of the special report on biodiversity and pandemics said that habitat destruction and insatiable consumption made animal-borne diseases far more likely to make the jump to people in future. “There is no great mystery about the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic — or any modern pandemic,” said Peter Daszak, president of the Ecohealth Alliance and chair of the IPBES workshop that drafted the report. “The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk though their impacts on our agriculture.” The panel said that Covid-19 was the sixth pandemic since the influenza outbreak of 1918 — all of which had been “entirely driven by human activities”. These include unsustainable exploitation of the environment through deforestation, agricultural expansion, wildlife trade and consumption — all of which put humans in increasingly close contact with wild and farmed animals and the diseases they harbour. Seventy percent of emerging diseases — such as Ebola, Zika and HIV/AIDS — are zoonotic in origin, meaning they circulate in animals before jumping to humans. Around five new diseases break out among humans every single year, any one of which has the potential to become a pandemic, the panel warned.