A study published in the journal Nature warns that the methane released from melting permafrost in the Arctic may take a heavy toll on the economy.
Scientists concluded that the increasing amounts of methane in the atmosphere could end up costing around $60 trillion — a sum that closely parallels the size of the global economy.
In order to reach such a conclusion, the authors of the study assumed a release of 50 gigatonnes of methane over a decade.
They arrived at the $60 trillion figure by estimating the impacts of climate change including an increase in flooding, a rise in the sea level, harm to agricultural crops, and the damages to human health.
This revelation is what Professor Gail Whiteman of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, one of the study’s authors, calls an “economic time bomb that at this stage has not been recognized on the world stage.”
Whiteman told the BBC that she thinks “it’s incredibly important for world leaders to really discuss what are the implications of this methane release and what could we indeed do about it to hopefully prevent the whole burst from happening.”
However, some scientists have argued that there is not enough data to support broad conclusions regarding the impact of a high release of methane on climate. Th researchers behind the Nature study admit that some see the warming of the Arctic as an economic opportunity.
The Arctic may be one of the last remaining unexplored areas that hold vast amounts of hydrocarbon. Scientists have estimated that around 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of undiscovered oil are hiding in Arctic waters.
Transport companies have already profited from the Arctic’s oil and gas resources. Over the past 30 years more than 200 billion gallons of oil have been removed from that area. With around 114 billion gallons of oil and 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas still waiting to be found, Lloyds of London believes investment in the Artic could rise to 100 billion within ten years.
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