WASHINGTON Fri Feb 5, 2010 6:08pm EST (Reuters)
Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves, according to a report released on Friday.
"Everybody around the world is going to bear these costs," said Eban Goodstein, a resource economist at Bard College in New York state who co-authored the report, called "Arctic Treasure, Global Assets Melting Away." He said the report, reviewed by more than a dozen scientists and economists and funded by the Pew Environment Group, an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, provides a first attempt to monetize the cost of the loss of one of the world's great weather makers.
"The Arctic is the planet's air conditioner and it's starting to break down," he said.
The loss of Arctic Sea ice and snow cover is already costing the world about $61 billion to $371 billion annually from costs associated with heat waves, flooding and other factors, the report said. The losses could grow as a warmer Arctic unlocks vast stores of methane in the permafrost. The gas has about 21 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.
Melting of Arctic sea ice is already triggering a feedback of more warming as dark water revealed by the receding ice absorbs more of the sun's energy, he said. That could lead to more melting of glaciers on land and raise global sea levels.
While much of Europe and the United States has suffered heavy snowstorms and unusually low temperatures this winter, evidence has built that the Arctic is at risk from warming. Greenhouse gases generated by tailpipes and smokestacks have pushed Arctic temperatures in the last decade to the highest levels in at least 2,000 years, reversing a natural cooling trend, an international team of researchers reported in the journal Science in September.
Goodstein's study did not look at worst-case scenarios Arctic melting could have, such as warmer temperatures that trigger massive releases of crystallized methane formations in Arctic soils and ocean beds known as methane hydrates. It also did not look at sea ice erosion troubling people in the Arctic.
Welcome to By 2100!
This Blog is designed to be a Diary of Events illustrating Global Climate Change, and where it will lead.
Commentary is encouraged, but this Blog is not intended for discussion on the Validity of Climate Change.