Monday, February 8, 2010

Melting Arctic could cost global economy over $2.4 trillion

Business Green: The melting of ice in the Arctic could result in economic costs of between $2.4 trillion (£1.54tn) and $24 trillion by 2050, according to a major new study that predicts that the loss of "the planet's air conditioner" will accelerate the rate of global warming and lead to an increase in losses associated with heat waves, rising sea levels and other climate change effects.

The study, which was commissioned by the Pew Environment Group, was presented to G7 finance ministers gathering for a two-day meeting on Canada's Baffin Island late last week. Reviewed by more than a dozen scientists and economists, the study found that average temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than in any other region. It warned that the resulting loss of Arctic sea ice and the melting of frozen permafrost had the potential to accelerate global warming by reducing the amount of heat reflected by the ice and increasing emissions of methane.

Researchers then calculated how these warming effects equated to carbon emissions and used methodologies for assessing the social cost of carbon to work out the likely economic impact of climate change in the Arctic.

"Putting a dollar figure on the Arctic's climate services allows us to better understand both the region's immense importance and the enormous price we will pay if the ice is lost," said Dr Eban Goodstein, co-author of the report and an economist who directs the Bard Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College in New York. "At the mid-range of our estimates, the cumulative cost of the melting Arctic in the next 40 years is equivalent to the annual gross domestic products of Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom combined."…

Baffin Island from the air, shot by Anders Sandberg, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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