Greenhouse gas emissions from thawing Arctic permafrost could result in an additional $43 trillion in economic impacts by the end of the twenty-second century, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
This represents a 13 per cent increase on the predicted economic impact of climate change by 2200, up from $326tn to $369tn.
The researchers point out that the Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions on the planet and the permanent ice on land and under the seabed prevents billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere to exacerbate the greenhouse effect.
“Unmitigated emissions are high due to moderate economic growth, a rapidly growing population and slow technological change in the energy sector
, making mitigation difficult,” according to the report.
“Investments in human capital are low, inequality is high, a regionalized world leads to reduced trade flows, and institutional development is unfavorable, leaving large numbers of people vulnerable to climate change and many parts of the world with low adaptive capacity,” says the report.
The Arctic is warming at a rate which is twice the global average, due to anthropogenic, or human-caused, greenhouse gas emissions. If emissions continue to rise at their current rates, Arctic warming will lead to the widespread thawing of permafrost and the release of hundreds of billions of tonnes of methane and CO2 - about 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon are held in permafrost soils in the form of frozen organic matter.
The researchers say that if an aggressive strategy to reduce emissions from thawing permafrost is adopted, it could reduce the impact by as much as $37 trillion.
Countries have vowed to cap warming to 2C on pre-industrial levels by 2100, with national pledges forming the backbone of a climate deal to be signed in Paris in December.