We know that by now, you’re probably suffering from the same, chronic, climate change anxiety that all of us greenies are grappling with. But there’s nothing like Wednesday afternoon for breaking some even more depressing news.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) released a report yesterday examining how some diseases could worsen because of changes in temperature and precipitation levels brought on by climate change. The nonprofit has identified 12 pathogens whose incidence could increase if global warming continues at its current trajectory, a list that the WCS dubbed “The Deadly Dozen.” These diseases could not only pose problems for the health of humans of wildlife, but may present implications for the global economy.

Steven E. Sanderson, president and CEO of the WCS, commented on the issue in a brochure released by the nonprofit:

“The term ‘climate change’ conjures images of melting ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities and nations. But just as important is how increasing temperatures and fluctuating precipitation levels will change the distribution of dangerous pathogens. The health of wild animals is tightly linked to the ecosystems in which they live and influenced by the environment surrounding them. Even minor disturbances can have far reaching consequences on what diseases they might encounter and transmit as climate changes.”

The WCS says that increased monitoring of wildlife is important to prevent these diseases from outbreaks. From a story on Scientific American’s website:

“We will see a shift in the geographic distribution of diseases, with certain areas having reduced prevalence and other areas increasing,” says veterinarian William Karesh, WCS’s vice president of global health programs. “We are calling for increased attention and action in developing global monitoring networks to look at a wide variety of infectious diseases in a wide variety of wildlife since they are such sensitive indicators of the health of the systems in which they live.”

With that being said (and without further ado), take a look at the Deadly Dozen. Fair warning: Pathogens range from the mildly disconcerting to the downright panic-attack-inducing:

  1. Avian flu

  2. Babesia

  3. Cholera

  4. Ebola

  5. External and intestinal parasites

  6. Lyme disease

  7. Plague

  8. Red tides

  9. Rift Valley fever

  10. Sleeping sickness

  11. Tuberculosis

  12. Yellow fever

Frightening, we know. To help ease your mind, just think of all the wonderful things that usually come as a dozen — donuts, eggs, months of the year, the 12 days of Christmas…

Story by Sarah Parsons. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Deadly dozen
Climate change could make 12 diseases worse.