The permafrost is melting. Even without temperatures 50F above normal, permafrost has been melting. As reported earlier, buildings are being undermined, shorelines are eroding, and villages are being relocated. On a smaller but more pervasive scale, bacteria, viruses, carbon, and methane are being released. The methane and carbon releases have created craters in the tundra, but the less dramatic exhalation of stored gasses is a stronger and more prolonged effect. The bacteria and viruses are greater unknowns, but one anthrax outbreak has already killed herds of reindeer, and killed one human. The viral outbreaks are more worrisome because viruses tend to be more resilient than bacteria. In either case, our current immune systems may not be able to combat diseases that haven’t been exposed in tens or hundreds of thousands of years. Climate change isn’t just about rising sea levels or more extreme weather; some aspects are microscopic except in their effects.

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