Arctic Methane Release Could Be A $60 Trillion ‘Time Bomb’

An Arctic methane release, caused by thawing permafrost, could cost countries $60 trillion worldwide. Not million or billion, but trillion. That’s the entire world economy in 2012.

This has long been a concern of scientists studying the global climate. Rising temperatures have been found to be reaching even the Arctic, where there are reports of large-scale melting.

Scientists say this area is seeing massive thawing and glacier melts. A newly released paper says that Arctic permafrost in the East Siberian Sea could be a global disaster in the making. Once this area thaws as much as 50 billion tons of methane could be released into the air.

Permafrost is soil that holds frozen moisture. It never thaws at any point in the year. One author of the new study says that this Arctic methane release could be “an economic time bomb” that’s not been realized yet, Yahoo! Weather reports.

Most attention is paid to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, or CO2. However, methane has been found to be at least 25 times better at trapping heat than CO2 gas.

The Arctic region basically traps in methane gas in ice and frozen soil, like a large filter. The polar regions keep the atmosphere from having too much methane, but this is changing.

If the researchers are right, a 50 billion ton increase in methane in the atmosphere will speed global warming. Currently, this century is supposed to get 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit hotter. A big methane release could speed this by 15 to 35 years, says BBC News. This could mean it could end up being a hotter century than previously thought.

Worst of all, it doesn’t matter how fast the methane is released. All at once or over 30 years, it will still cost at least $60 trillion to countries around the globe.

Developing nations are expected to be hit the hardest, though. The study says those countries will have to pay almost 80 percent of the costs that would come from a large-scale Arctic methane release, like the 50 billion expected to escape in the future.

[Image via subarcticmike via photopin cc]