The Dystopian Future Is Only Just Beginning, Thanks To Climate Change

Photo: Adrian Wojcik/Alamy.
It's not zombies that humankind will have to run from. According to the BBC, it's more likely that superbugs and long-dormant diseases are what people will have to look out for in the future. Thanks to global warming, long lost viruses are being revived and infecting both animals and humans.
The BBC explains that in 2016, a Siberian boy died after he and 20 other people came down with a case of anthrax. How? The disease had become frozen in a reindeer carcass over 75 years ago, but the permafrost had kept it all under wraps. However, climate change has caused rising temps, which defrosted the reindeer and reintroduced anthrax to the Arctic Circle's Yamal Peninsula. Then, anthrax spread to the soil and water, making its way through the food chain. Eventually, 2,000 reindeer became infected.
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"Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark," evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie told the BBC. "Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past."
Because of warming earth temperatures, more of the deep permafrost is getting exposed and researchers are fearful that a whole slew of diseases could emerge as it melts. Scientists explain that because the permafrost is so hard, many of the graves in the Arctic Circle are shallow, which means that climate change could expose them quicker than previously thought.
What's buried under the snow and ice? Researchers found the 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in Alaskan mass graves. That's not all. Smallpox and bubonic plague are probably under the Siberia tundra. Just how long can these germs stay preserved? In 2005, NASA scientists found a population of Carnobacterium pleistocenium that froze alongside wooly mammoths 32,000 years ago. When they reanimated, they were fine. In 2007, researchers revived Antarctic bacteria that was eight million years old.
"Following our work and that of others, there is now a non-zero probability that pathogenic microbes could be revived, and infect us," Claverie told the BBC. "How likely that is is not known, but it's a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn't been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared. So yes, that could be dangerous."
Claverie adds that there are also bacteria lurking in deep caves, in mines, and even crystals. The researcher adds that because of warming temperatures all over the globe, many diseases associated with the southern hemisphere could move north, including dengue fever, cholera, and malaria. Basically, zombies are the last thing to worry about — the real threat is an invisible killer.
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