Wait, wait… wait! Hold on a minute. This is not a political rant about whether or not global warming is real or completely real. All those scientists and experts the politicians keep deferring to have settled that debate with stuff they like to call “compelling” evidence. So don’t worry, that’s not what this article is about.
No, this piece is about a little-known threat posed by the melting of the Earth’s polar regions, a very real and measurable result of rising temperatures around the world. Until now, the biggest concern about the melting of polar ice has been how we humans would deal with the resulting rise in sea levels. Sure, massive coastal flooding sounds terrible and frightening, but it would no doubt lead to huge profits for moving companies. Score one for capitalism.
This newly discovered global warming threat could prove much worse than a few extra inches of seawater. In fact, it’s a real-life horror flick justing waiting to be greenlighted. The bad news is we’re all up for the role of “token minority,” the character who everyone knows will never make it to the end of the film.
The Ancient Frozen Virus Threat
For those of us living inland who will survive the devastating flood, our end may come at the hands of a much smaller, albeit related foe. Researchers studying global warming now fear that the melting ice caps will not just raise global sea levels, but also release ancient viruses that have been locked in the permafrost for up to 30,000 years. Who knew melting ice could kill us in so many exciting and devastating ways.
In a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, researchers announced that they are studying a 30,000-year-old virus called Mollivirus sibericum. According to the scientists, this particular ancient virus has the ability to infect modern amoeba.
But don’t worry. These old-school viruses don’t appear to pose any threat to humans… yet. The worry, however, is there may be other viruses locked in the permafrost that could infect humans if let loose by continued warming.
Lead researcher Jean-Michel Claverie stated the concern in no uncertain terms: “A few viral particles that are still infectious may be enough… to revive potentially pathogenic viruses. If we are not careful… we run the risk of one day waking up viruses such as smallpox that we thought were eradicated.”
A Serious Argument for the Deniers
So you still think “climate change” is junk science, do you? Let’s run through a few of the more solid pieces of circumstantial evidence that most people—sciency or not—would understand to be linked to a rise in temperature.
- More carbon dioxide exists in the atmosphere today than at any point in the past 800,000 years.
- Glacier National Park has only 25 glaciers left from the 150 that were there in the year 1910.
- Global temps have risen since 1880, but most of the warming has taken place since the ‘70s. The ten warmest years have all come in the past 12 years.
- Extreme weather events related to high temperatures are on the increase, while those related to low temps are on the decrease.
- Just 200 years ago, we didn’t really even know that a planet’s climate could change at all.
You might be wondering how that last bullet point ties in. It’s not evidence of global warming, but it sets up what may be the most unique argument I’ve ever seen for why climate change deniers need to reevaluate their denial… especially if they try to use science in their argument.
“Landing on the moon. The development of relativity theory. The discovery of DNA. We rightfully hail these accomplishments as testaments to the creative power of the human imagination,” writes Adam Frank for NPR.org. “We point to them as the highest achievements of our species, calling them milestones in our collective evolution. But climate science is no different. It, too, belongs in that short list of epoch making human efforts.”
Frank brilliantly breaks down the “climate science is junk science” argument by telling the story of how several of mankind’s greatest 20th century achievements are a direct result of the advancements in climate science.
“Across the latter half of the 20th century,” Frank writes, “an effort worthy of multiple Manhattan Projects unpacked something entirely new and entirely remarkable: a science of planets in all their complex glory. Wind, oceans, ice and rock: All of it had to be accounted for if the story of Earth… was to be told.”
To belittle climate science is to call into question the achievements that arose from the work of climate scientists—work that brought us to the moon and back and helped us understand the history of our home planet. Climate science also helps us make predictions about far off worlds that allow us to explore further and understand more about the universe in which we live.
Frank argues that if you choose to deny the validity of what climate science is reporting regarding the steady, measurable rise in temperatures, you must also deny the discipline’s other work. If you call B.S. on global warming, you’re ipso facto calling B.S. on a science that has expanded human understanding of the cosmos at an exponential rate.
Take a few minutes and read Frank’s entire article “The Climate Story Nobody Talks About.” You’ll be glad you did. He makes an eloquent argument for a greater appreciation of just how far the reach of climate science extends.
Featured image via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center