Climate Change’s 60 Trillion Dollar Cost


A report posted by Gail Whiteman, Chris Hope & Peter Wadhams in the journal Nature, details the working mechanisms behind the sudden upheaval and interest in climate change yet again. The proposed price tag is standing at $60 trillion, a hefty cost for the world to bear. According to the published report, the Arctic holds 30% of the worlds as yet untapped gas and 13% of untapped oil. Regional trade is expected to increase with the opening up of new polar shipping routes. The authors also note that Lloyd’s of London has estimated that within ten years, investment the Arctic has the potential to increase to $100 billion.

The promising regional trade does little to calm the unease brought by the development in terms of environmental damage to coastlines. The US National Research Council is currently adopting it as a ‘subject for investigation’.

This speculation and investigation is a focus on the regional area of the Arctic, and with the rudimental knowledge that everything in nature is connected, we can acknowledge that, without looking at the entire worldwide effects of the melting Arctic, a true economic modeling cannot be done.

The authors of the article in the science journal predict the costs of the melting of the Arctic to be heavier than most authorities are letting on. The reason for this, according to the authors, is that the Arctic area is critical to the way the rest of the Earth’s systems function. Studies have found that the methane released off of thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea will be at the cost of at least $60 trillion to the world. This is just the cost of methane released off the northern coast of Russia. The Arctic is a much larger area and the predicted monetary value put on the melting of this area will be huge.

“As the amount of Arctic sea ice declines at an unprecedented rate, the thawing of offshore permafrost releases methane.” The authors go on to explain. “A 50-gigatonne (Gt) reservoir of methane, stored in the form of hydrates, exists on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. It is likely to be emitted as the seabed warms, either steadily over 50 years or suddenly.”

The atmosphere, with this higher methane concentration from the Siberian Coast, will cause an acceleration in the rate of Global Warming and the speed at which the melting in the Arctic takes place.

Whiteman, Hope and Wadhams attempted to quantify the global economic effects of Arctic methane using the integrated assessment model. Using this method of assessment, the impact of climate change and the resulting are calculated.

The results detailing this calculated cost are detailed in the journal, and after running through the system 10 000 times, checking differing scenarios, all results brought forward show that there will be an unshakable price tag with most scenarios.

The model also shows that 80% of predicted costs will fall on the shoulders of the ‘poorer’ countries.  Africa, Asia and South America are major vulnerabilities in the face of climate change due to their low-lying areas and flood risk.

The researchers admit that this is not where it ends. The study of the economic effect of methane release from climate change is just one shade of the possible effects of global warming.

“The full impacts of a warming Arctic, including, for example, ocean acidification and altered ocean and atmospheric circulation, will be much greater than our cost estimate for methane release alone.”

A more detailed study and model is required in order to answer the imposing question of the full economic price tag of global warming, beyond the trillions of dollars already mentioned.

Looking at the huge economical implications of climate change, including a nearly 60 trillion dollar price tag, is this what is needed for interest in the subject to evolve to a dynamic resolution? And what will happen if money can’t actually mend the problem of global warming?

Jessica Rosslee

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