Threat of deadly pathogens on the rise with global warming...

Climate change is quickly becoming an infectious disease’s best friend.

Yesterday, after six long months, students in Liberia returned to their classrooms. Schools across Liberia had been shut down since the height of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But, while schools may be reopened, they are taking plenty of precautions.

According to Slate, “Liberian officials said more than 5,000 health kits with thermometers and chlorine for hand-washing, were distributed to schools. Education officials are also emphasizing that class sizes should be reduced—from the typical 100 to 40 or 50 students—to help avoid close contact that allowed Ebola to rapidly spread.”

More than 4,000 people have lost their lives because of Ebola in Liberia alone.

Fortunately, there are just a small number of Ebola cases left in Liberia today, and it appears that at least in Liberia, Ebola is under control. But, as West Africa slowly recovers from the Ebola outbreak, there are new fears that infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola could become more likely thanks to global warming and climate change.

A new study released this week and published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B warns that a warming planet and rapidly changing climate are increasing the appearance of infectious diseases like Ebola.

According to Daniel Brooks, one of the researchers on the study, “It's not that there's going to be one 'Andromeda Strain' that will wipe everybody out on the planet. There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”

And, to make matters even worse, there’s also the concern of unknown infectious diseases popping up across the globe thanks to climate change. For example, there are sure to be unknown bacteria and pathogens that have been frozen in Arctic ice for thousands of years.

But, if that ice melts, and those never-before-seen pathogens get released into the air, they could start new epidemics that we simply wouldn’t be able to fight because we’ve never had experience with them. Last year, scientists were able to successfully “revive” a virus that had been trapped in the Siberian tundra for tens of thousands of years.

According to the scientists, the virus, now known as Pithovirus sibericum, was lying dormant in the Siberian tundra for around 30,000 years. But, after thawing the virus out of the ice, the scientists discovered that it hadn’t lost its touch after its 30,000 year nap. In fact, soon after the virus was thawed, it infected countless single-cell organisms.

Now, just imagine if the thawing of Pithovirus sibericum hadn’t happened in a controlled laboratory, but instead happened in the wilderness of Siberia. There’s a good chance that single-cell organisms wouldn’t be the only things it would be infecting.

And, as the researchers point out and as we just saw with Ebola, ancient or deeply hidden viruses that were once common to one particular area or one particular host can easily adapt to new environments.

Brooks said that, “Even though a parasite might have a very specialized relationship with one particular host in one particular place, there are other hosts that may be as susceptible. West Nile Virus is a good example – no longer an acute problem for humans or wildlife in North America, it nonetheless is here to stay.”

Climate change and global warming are here to stay, but we have the power to lessen their impacts on our planet.

More importantly, in this case, we have the power - through radically reducing our use of fossil fuels and amping up our use of sun, wind, and other renewable power forms - to prevent future global-warming-driven outbreaks of infectious diseases that could claim the lives of millions and millions of people across the globe.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 15 weeks ago

Old Mother Earth is trying very hard to cure Her really bad case of "people".

She will succeed.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 15 weeks ago

Wow Thom. This is a real stretch. Is the global warming threat dying out that badly. This is the best you can scare us with.

bobcox's picture
bobcox 8 years 15 weeks ago

Robert Ardery, in his last book on anthropology, suggested that the next big change in the series of human-like development might be caused by an Ice age. The ice-age or the change in the climate such as global warming might be the cause of the decimation of the human population on Earth. The absolute carrying capacity of Earth with equal distribution of calories has been estimated to be slightly oiver 9 billion. We will reach that poplulation very shortly, possibly before I die, and the Earth cannot survive that situkation. Man may destroy all of us before then. Whkat should our policy be at this time? We need to determine a sound, scientific, policy for sustainable life forms.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 15 weeks ago

Today's myopic attitude regarding climate change will be viewed by future generations as an unforgiveable act of selfishness and greed, and with this a few familiar names will go down in infamy......maybe even some of the never-before-seen deadly pathogens will be named after the Carbon Barrons.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 15 weeks ago

bobcox -- You should read the series of articles on food in National Geographic from last year. Some of the things they describe could provide calories for many more than 9 billion. One of things I remember is that farm fishing is running at 1% of its capacity. Of course, global warming could wipe out all we have currently. The uncertainty is so large I would not be worrying about 9 billion or 18 billion. I would worry about the uncertainty.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 15 weeks ago

kend -- Why do you think the global warming threat is dying out? Thom is just adding another item to a monstrous list.

leighmf's picture
leighmf 8 years 15 weeks ago

I think I'll watch a dumb Nicole Kidmann movie.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 15 weeks ago
Quote Kend:Wow Thom. This is a real stretch. Is the global warming threat dying out that badly. This is the best you can scare us with.

Kend ~ Don't be frightened. You'll have plenty of warning before those nasty little viruses get to you. Plenty of time to move yourself and your family to your underground plastic bubble. The crisis will be over in a million years or so. We'll send you a text message when its safe to come up.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 15 weeks ago

bobcox ~ I think it's fairly obvious what we should do. What we should have done a very long time ago. We must learn to control the size of our population. It really is not a relevant argument whether the world can sustain 7 Billion, 9 Billion, or for that matter 10 Trillion people. All we have to agree upon is the fact that there is not an infinite amount of people that can live on the world. It is not possible, practical or preferable to push the limit. Therefore, it is necessary to control and maintain a steady number. That is the only logical solution. That is the only practical approach. Until we adopt a functional method of controlling and maintaining our population, the human race is doomed to a very uncomfortable future with very dire consequences. That is a fact!

Loren Bliss's picture
Loren Bliss 8 years 15 weeks ago

Reminds me of the only truly frightening horror film I have ever seen: Thaw (2009), in which global warming demonstrates that it truly is terminal climate change by releasing prehistoric parasites that feed on all mammalian life. (I am not a horror-movie fan -- jeer at most such films -- but saw this one night on cable TV and got into before I realized what it was, then stayed aboard.) VERY scary!

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 15 weeks ago

Chuckle 8. I think it is dying out because none of this stuff ever happens. Mr Gore said by now water levels would be seven inches higher. Green houses gases would be tens times higher then they are. We have spent trillions and it hasn't done a thing. The hockey stick theory that started the whole thing was made up with incorrect data. I could go on for hours.

I may be wrong but where I live in Canada and I see no change at all. The air is clean, the water is sparking clean. It's cold in the winter and warm in the summer. Temperatures have been changing for millions of years. It is natural.

Marc i know it's a miracle I am still alive. I lived through a hole in the ozone layer burning me to death. I lived through the seventies when we where all going to freeze to death because the earth was cooling so fast the same scientist wanted to spray insulation to cover the Artic.

It just seems the boy has cried wolf way too many times.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 15 weeks ago

Kend ~ You might be right when you say that you're not seeing Global Warming play out as predicted. However, you would have your head in a hole if you didn't see any kind of Climate Change. We have snow, floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, and cyclones like never before all over the globe. I think bobcox's contention about recurring ice ages makes a lot of sense. Super winters that have blanketed much of North America under snow should be a concern for everyone. The same type of condition threatens most of Europe. We know from geological study that North America was covered by a mile high ice sheet before. Canada too. That is how we got the Great Lakes you know. If such an era was to repeat itself, the seas would recede not raise. Of course, it probably won't happen during our lifetimes; or, will it? In either case, you won't believe anything is going on until it's over. Happy hopeful thinking! Cheers!

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 15 weeks ago

Preventing and controlling new diseases that pop up because of global warming is not going to be easy because controlling global warming is not going to be easy. The biggest problem is greed. Yes, greed, because the wealthy people who keep making more and more money fron coal, crude, and gas are not going to slow down production, promotion, and sales of these fuels. These fuels put megatons of carbon atoms into the worldwide atmosphere every year and carbon atoms and methane atoms hold in the heat that comes from the sun. The fuel wealthy may may actually not believe this otherwise common knowlage because their greed overpowers their ability to understand that what they are doing is destroying the planet. If the fuel industry converted to the no carbon energy industry like the washing machine and auto industry converted to the war industry for WWII, human caused global warming would stop, giving the human species more time on this Earth. Wind and solar power production needs to be speeded up like Lucy and Ethel's chocolate conveyer belt. There's really only one thing that can make humans stop polluting the atmosphere and that is law and to change law, lawmakers that side with the polluters must be changed. Stop atmospheric pollution, stop global warming, and the spredding of new diseases caused by global warming stops.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 15 weeks ago

Marc I am not saying there has been no climate change. The earths climate is always changing. It has been for millions of years. We have always had all of the disasters you mention. We have only been recording them for a few hundred years. What I am having a hard time with is that car exhaust is causing it. What caused the heat wave in the thirties? There was no cars. The final straw was the commerical showing polar bears drowning because the ice was melting. Come on please don't insult those magnificent creatures. It never happened and was a complete lie. So what can I believe? Like I just said the whole hockey stick theory that started this was made up with in correct data. What scares me the most is there is no debate. That always means someone is hiding something.

Global's picture
Global 8 years 15 weeks ago

Of course you are correct Kend, but to the progressive liberal socialist the only way to create "Utopia" is to control your life in every major way. It is very obvious the common theme in the socialist agenda is "control", notice they rarely trumpet the causes of individual liberty or freedoms. To do this effectively they have to use fear. They did it with health care and you and I both know they want to have government control of all the energy industry so global warming is their Trojan horse. I also think they love to write regulations in their quest to destroy capitalism and control businesses. I know you run a small business and it must be a nightmare to keep up with all the crap they demand. Do any of these socialist realize that only the large corporations are the best equipped to absorb most of these regulations and they destroy competition and jobs. They are creating the oligarchs and corporatist that none of us want.

As I said, the common thread in the socialist agenda is CONTROL, never personal responsibility, individual freedoms or liberty. Show me where I am wrong!

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 15 weeks ago

kend, the ozone hole was over the Antarctic, so unless you traveled there it wouldn't have "burned you to death" (which was not the prediction, just some crappy network TV movie), and thanks to banning CFCs, that hole is actually closing. It's a success of both climate science and a prompt political acceptance and compliance therewith.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 15 weeks ago

Boy, I'd love to be able to comment on "today's" post instead of always having to settle for "yesterday's", Anyway...

The problem of young people running off to join ISIL could be combatted by promoting the Peace Corps. They'd still get to travel to foreign countries, and try to improve the world, but they'd actually improve it, rather than killing, deepening people's hatreds, and contributing to a world-wide cultural conflagration.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 14 weeks ago

Global -- The socialist control is to protect the 90% from the "billionaires".

The government control of which you speak is that control let loose on us by ronnie boy and the repuglicans. A key measure that reveals this bowing to the billionaires version of freedom is the increase in M&A activity starting in the 80's. Ronnie boy quit enforcing the Sherman Anti-trust act. They said we need to give freedom to businesses to do what they want. What they wanted was to create monopolies and buy the political process so they could make rules such that no small business could compete with them.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 14 weeks ago

Kend -- Do you have any references where Gore said the ocean would rise by 7 inches by now? I thought everything I heard him say back in the day was more like for the year 2100. I do know that currently every climate scientist says things are happening much faster than any of their predictions.

Do you know about the scientist the carbon corps gave a million dollars to show that the hockey stick theory was made up with too little data? Incidentally, $150,000 of the $1 million came from the Kochs. The scientist (his name was something like Mullen) looked at the a more complete set of data (the original scientist, I will call him Dr. Mann, did not have the funds to look at it). Somewhere in the new study, the million dollar "Koch" scientist said that Dr. Mann's limited sample revealed what all the data concluded. Dr. Mullen quit spending the million. Dr. Mullen also showed that sun activity explained all the variations (e.g. 1998 being so hot) from the continuing warming of the planet.

The carbon corps attacked Dr. Mann relentlessly. They attacked his creditability and personal character. The attack worked. Only in the last couple of years has Dr. Mann been able to resume his career. Kend, I guess you read those attacks.

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