Rapidly Melting Arctic Could Release A "Giant Pulse" Of Methane

A first-of-its-kind study warns that just one massive greenhouse gas emission could be enough to devastate the global economy.

What's the Latest Development?


For the first time, a group of economists and scientists have attempted to calculate the impact of the Arctic ice melt on the global economy. According to their paper, just published in Nature, the prospects are not good: Large quantities of methane, long trapped in permafrost, are entering the atmosphere as the water warms. With the increasing speed of the ice melt comes the possibility of a single giant "pulse" of the greenhouse gas into the air, and it's this pulse that could accelerate global warming significantly, with catastrophic effects that could cost the world US$60 trillion.

What's the Big Idea?

The news comes as Russian authorities report that so far, 218 shipping vessels have applied to travel across the Northern Sea Route (NSR) this year, up from 46 in 2012 and just four in 2011. Taking this route can cut down travel times and save hundreds of tons of fuel, which sounds good in the short term, but paper co-author and Cambridge professor Peter Wadhams says governments must pay closer attention to the bigger picture. A giant pulse of methane "will have major implications for global economies and societies. Much of those costs would be borne by developing countries in the form of extreme weather, flooding and impacts on health and agricultural production."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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