Will the next deadly disease emerge from the Arctic?

The Earth is on the verge of a disaster. Temperatures are rising all throughout the world. On the horizon lie heat waves, droughts, ocean acidification, and increasing sea levels.
The northern hemisphere is home to about 90% of the world’s population, with large population centres in the tropical and subtropical regions. These areas will be greatly impacted.
Scientists are also concerned about the unintended consequences of permafrost and glacier ice thawing.


Permafrost is any ground that has been entirely frozen for at least two years and has a temperature of 32°F (0°C) or lower. It is particularly frequent in mountainous areas and at higher latitudes, such as at the North and South Poles. Permafrost blankets enormous swaths of the planet. Permafrost covers over a fourth of the land area in the Northern Hemisphere. Permafrost locations are not always blanketed in snow, despite the fact that the ground is frozen.

Associated Issues With The Thawing of Permafrost:-

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  • Increase the Impact of Climate Change: Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as rapidly as they are in other regions of the planet. As a result, the permafrost, which had been frozen all year, is thawing.
  • Because stored carbon is released when permafrost thaws, it will exacerbate the effects of the climate problem.
  • Similarly, the melting of sea ice and land-based ice sheets will hasten the rise in temperatures (As Ice has more albedo than Water).
  • Tropical Challenges Expanding to Higher Latitudes: Diseases that have traditionally afflicted the equatorial belt are now expanding to higher latitudes. Many of these diseases are spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects.
  • Every year, the West Nile virus kills hundreds of people in the United States, where it was initially discovered in 1999.
  • West Nile virus will become more common in Canada, especially portions of the Arctic, as temperatures rise.
  • Prevalence of Zoonotic Diseases:Warming temperatures are also creating changes in the habitats of wild birds that can spread avian flu, such as ducks and geese.
  • Russia has previously reported the first incidence of H5N8 avian flu transmission from birds to people.
  • Rabies may spread more widely due to changes in the habitats of other wild animals, such as foxes.
  • Viruses and Bacteria Emergence: Scientists are also concerned about the emergence of viruses and bacteria as permafrost and ice melt. Anthrax was discovered in a remote section of Siberia in the summer of 2016.
  • Spread: Dozens of people were affected, and a small boy died as a result of the disease. Approximately 2,300 reindeer died as a result of the pandemic.
  • Anthrax is a deadly infectious illness produced by bacteria that can lie latent as spores for long periods of time.
  • Anthrax spores may survive in frozen soil and ice for at least a few decades.
  • Epidemic And Pandemic: Disease outbreaks may increase as contaminated animal corpses (including those of extinct mammoths) thaw.
  • The advent of viruses and bacteria with the potential to trigger epidemics is another source of concern. These pathogenic microorganisms might have been dormant for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
  • Permafrost has yielded genetic material from the H1N1 influenza virus, which caused the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, as well as smallpox.
  • Because people are no longer routinely vaccinated, the reemergence of a virus like smallpox (which has been eliminated) would be alarming.
  • Virus Samples from the Tibetan Plateau: The Arctic isn’t the only place where these circumstances exist. Glacial ice that has been around for thousands of years is beginning to melt.
  • Recently, 15,000-year-old viruses were discovered in Tibetan Plateau glacial ice (containing 28 distinct species for the first time).
  • Because people are no longer routinely vaccinated, the reemergence of a virus like smallpox (which has been eliminated) would be alarming.

Way Forward :-

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  • Stop Rapid Climate Change: To prevent climate change and maintain the permafrost, global CO2 emissions must be cut by 45 percent over the next decade and nil by 2050.
  • To combat climate change, a worldwide collaborative response is required. If one nation reduces its emissions, it will be ineffective unless the others do so as well.
  • Slow Erosion: The scientific publication Nature proposed constructing a 100-meter-long dam in front of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, which is the glacier most impacted by Arctic melting.
  • Combine Artificial Icebergs: An prize has been given to an Indonesian architect for his project Refreeze the Arctic, which involves collecting water from melted glaciers, desalinating it, and refreezing it to build gigantic hexagonal ice blocks.
  • These icebergs might then be joined to form frozen masses due to their shape.
  • Increase Their Thickness: Some scientists offer a method for producing additional ice. Their plan entails gathering ice from beneath the glacier using wind-powered pumps and spreading it over the higher ice caps, where it will solidify and improve the consistency.
  • People’s Awareness: The tundra and the permafrost underneath it may appear remote, yet our daily actions contribute to climate change regardless of where we live.
  • We can help maintain the world’s permafrost by lowering our carbon footprint, investing in energy-efficient goods, and supporting climate-friendly businesses, legislation, and policies.

Conclusion :-

Climate change and global warming must be elevated to the top of every country’s foreign policy agenda. This is a key step that we must take, and the sooner we do so, the bigger the benefit from our own climate measures will be.