We’re all familiar with the consequences of climate change: shrinking glaciers, failing ecosystems, increasing heat waves — the list goes on. However, scientists still can’t predict every single consequence of climate change. As our planet continues to change, new issues will continue to reveal themselves.

 

In only 50 years, the thickness of Arctic ice has decreased by about 40 percent.

In only 50 years, the thickness of Arctic ice has decreased by about 40 percent.

At the University of California, scientists were recently successful in their attempt to reanimate a virus preserved within a sample of caribou feces that had been frozen for 700 years. More importantly, the scientists were successful in infecting a plant with the virus after reanimation.

 

As temperatures rise and land continues to thaw, frozen diseases may become exposed to the atmosphere and present new dangers to the world. Jean-Michael Claverie, of the Aix-Marseille University School of Medicine in France, warns, “virus particles are very good ‘time capsules’ that preserve their core genomic material, making it likely that many prehistoric viruses are still infectious to plants, animals, or humans.”

 

These studies suggest that once eradicated diseases may be able to return to the world, fully infectious. Not only are these findings important in helping us to better understand the dangers that climate change presents but also in helping us to determine immediate precautions to be taken now. Drilling deep into Arctic regions for oil, for instance, could also reintroduce such diseases.

 

Even if ancient viruses manage to enter our atmosphere, though, it is possible that they won’t be able to survive against current viruses, which have the benefit of hundreds of years of evolution. Regardless, the awareness of such possibilities will become vital to the well being of the Earth as climate change continues to unravel.

 

Which ancient diseases are you most looking forward to have threaten your life? Let me know below, or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness