Climate change has been said that it will cause a various amount of consequences if nothing is done to halt the continuous detriment to the Earth’s health. Researchers who have been examining different scenarios regarding the future of our effect on Earth’s climate, have just discovered that the human population will have to manage the onset of more contagious and parasitic diseases than have ever been faced. According to the researchers, the study shows that if the Earth’s relative temperature further increases, a widespread epidemic, caused by varying diseases, will spread globally.
Climate experts do not currently know what effect climate change will have on the human population at first. They stated the consequences humans are most likely to face are megadroughts, continuously-rising sea levels, or, as was previously stated, new infectious parasites and diseases. Professor Daniel Brooks, a well-known zoologist from the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology, indicated as the climate continues to warm, more epidemics like measles and the recent Ebola outbreak are expected.
Brooks is deeply concerned that climate change will be the foundation from which new epidemics spread around the world, leaving the population without the ability to stop or even hinder its advancement, before spreading elsewhere. He claims a pending epidemic will most likely not hit society in one major outbreak, but a multitude of miniature ones, in different regions around the world. Brooks clarified that the 1971 science fiction film, Andromeda Strain, which denotes a single pathogen destroying the planet’s population, is not a probable scenario. A more plausible scenario would be several regional outbreaks that will place immense tension on area medical health systems, resulting in a prolonged, exhausting endgame.
Eric Hoberg, co-author of the study and zoologist from the National Parasite Collection at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, along with Brooks, focused on different parts of the world. One examined the tropical regions, while the other researcher concentrated on the Arctic regions. Although they studied dissimilar areas, they both discovered that climate change affects the way in which a disease develops. Moreover, Brooks and Hoberg reached the conclusion that increasing Earth temperatures will be the arbiter of more infectious diseases.
Over the previous three decades, the regions in which Brooks has been studying have been unquestionably altered by climate change. Both researchers see territorial transitions in both the tropical and Arctic regions. Brooks explained this is due to the fact that increases in temperature embolden parasites and their hosts to migrate to different parts of the world. For instance, recent studies have shown that lungworms, previously found in caribou, have migrated to muskoxen, a more northern-residing animal, in the Arctic region of Canada. Brooks stated this was a chilling find, previously thought to be an impossible feat.
Although parasites have dedicated relationships with their unique hosts, they have the ability to acclimate with others. This characteristic is called parasite paradox. This means that over time, the host and parasite improve their symbiotic relationship so much that it reaches its precipice. Though, Brooks’ theory proposes that the benefit balance deadlock will be destroyed by the parasites, leading to more dangerous mutations.
The fact that climate change can cause the breakdown of a symbiotic relationship between a parasite and its host, leading to deadly mutations, is astonishing, said Brooks. Not much is being done to lessen society’s contribution to global warming and the consequences, thereof. In the last few decades, climatologists have emphatically stated that rising tides and megadroughts will be the cause of the human population’s demise. However, with this new study, climate change can also cause the major onset of epidemics that have the possibly to wreak worldwide havoc.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: Army Medicine – Flickr License