The Facts You’ve Never Heard About Climate Change

Lesser known effect of climate change involving two polar bears balancing on a floating piece of ice that has broken off from a larger piece.

Despite all of Earth’s consistencies — spinning on its axis exactly once every 24 hours, maintaining its stable position between neighboring Venus and Mars, reliably orbiting the sun every year — one earthly phenomenon fluctuates constantly: global temperature.

The atmosphere continues to warm — thanks to unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide — but climate change does not always manifest itself in such noticeable ways as ice becoming water or people suffering from heat strokes. In fact, some of its lesser known effects may be ones you never predicted.

Ice loss leads to hybrid species

Since adapting to new geographic locations limits the likelihood that an animal will encounter another of its kind, dissimilar species sometimes mate with one another. For instance, polar bears and grizzlies have started producing infertile hybrid offspring known as “grolars” or “pizzlies,” which — though interesting to look at — threaten the longevity and existence of both species.

If the obvious suffering climate change inflicts on animals weren’t enough to convince you that humans must mitigate its harmful effects, then perhaps the life-threatening illnesses it aggravates will do the trick.

Dormant deadly diseases might resurface

As a consequence of climate warming in the Arctic, strains of deadly diseases that have long remained dormant, stored within the confines of seemingly indestructible glaciers or underneath permafrost soil, may resurface. This trend, which has already hospitalized dozens of people in Russia who were infected by anthrax, seems to be an unstoppable one, according to noteworthy evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie.

“Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark,” he says.

Over a million reindeer died from anthrax during the 20th century, and most of those carcasses are buried just underground in northern Russia, enabling the bacteria to easily pass through soil if permafrost were to melt. Scientists speculate that smallpox, the Spanish flu virus, and the bubonic plague could also all resurface, since humans who died of those illnesses were buried close to the surface of the ground, separated from the current population only by a tenuous layer of permafrost.

"The vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th Centuries may come back, especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried," researchers Boris A. Revich and Marina A. Podolnaya says.

Warmer climates can also increase the frequency and severity of modern diseases common in Africa and South Asia, particularly malaria and cholera. A 2015 study that analyzed the link between infection and human activity concluded that the incidence of malaria in 27 nations skyrocketed as the global temperature rose, likely because mosquitoes can breed more easily in prolonged heat. Because of deforestation — which forces animals and humans to interact more regularly than they otherwise would — humans are more likely than ever to contract “zoonotic” diseases, such as AIDS, H5N1, H1N1, and bird flu.

What can we do?

Change will not be possible, progress will not be made, until citizens of this earth recognize the value of continually informing themselves, of staying updated on a constantly evolving issue. Gain information about this complex, evolving issue, or better yet, invigorate fellow residents of the earth — who may have grown weary in their eco-efforts — by sending them this information or fostering dialogue about the planet.

Everyone must acknowledge his or her global responsibility to make a concerted effort to mitigate the damage climate change does to the earth. Individuals must stop treating the planet as if they have another one to go to.

Grotto infographic explaining the lesser known effects of climate change.

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