A new research has warned that if the Arctic permafrost continues to melt at the current rate, carbon dioxide and methane released from the melting ice sheets, coupled with more heat absorption due to disappearance of heat-deflecting white ice, could add a whopping $70 trillion to the global climate change costs.
The authors say their study is the first to calculate the economic impact of permafrost melt and reduced albedo – a measure of how much light that hits a surface is reflected without being absorbed – based on the most advanced computer models of what is likely to happen in the Arctic as temperatures rise.
It shows how destabilised natural systems will worsen the problem caused by man-made emissions, making it more difficult and expensive to solve.
They assessed known stocks of frozen organic matter in the ground up to 3 meters deep at multiple points across the Arctic. These were run through the world’s most advanced simulation software in the US and at the UK Met Office to predict how much gas will be released at different levels of warming.
Even with supercomputers, the number crunching took weeks because the vast geography and complex climate interactions of the Arctic throw up multiple variables. The researchers then applied previous economic impact models to assess the likely costs.