Arctic Ice Melt Could Trigger 'Economic Timebomb'

The unprecedented decline in Arctic sea ice could cause the catastrophic release of methane, imperiling the world's climate and economy, reports a new paper published in the journal Nature.
July 25, 2013, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Rapid thawing of the Arctic could trigger a catastrophic 'economic timebomb' which would cost trillions of dollars and undermine the global financial system, say a group of economists and polar scientists."

"Governments and industry have expected the widespread warming of the Arctic region in the past 20 years to be an economic boon, allowing the exploitation of new gas and oilfields and enabling shipping to travel faster between Europe and Asia," notes John Vidal. "But the release of a single giant 'pulse' of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea 'could come with a $60tn [£39tn] global price tag', according to the researchers who have for the first time quantified the effects on the global economy."

"Even the slow emission of a much smaller proportion of the vast quantities of methane locked up in the Arctic permafrost and offshore waters could trigger catastrophic climate change and 'steep' economic losses, they say."

UPDATE: A blogger for The Washington Post, and others, have commented on the implausibility of the "methane pulse" scenario. See the back and forth here, at The New York Times' Dot Earth blog.

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Published on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 in The Guardian
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