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Arctic Methane "Burp": A Climate Catastrophe with $60 Trillion Pricetag

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Warning that a dramatic "burp" or "pulse" of methane from beneath the fragile permafrost of the Arctic caused by continued global warming would set off a "climate catastrophe," a new study says that the continued melting is also an economic "time bomb" that could cost the global economy $60 trillion.

Billions upon billions of tons of methane remain stored in the permafrost throughout the Arctic regions, but specific concern has been placed on the enormous reserves that sit locked beneath the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Scientists have repeatedly warned that if these deposits-many frozen in the form of methane hydrates-were released, they would trigger massive feedback loops and dramatically increase the rate of global warming.

The new study confirms these established fears, but also looks at the potential social and economic costs that would follow.

Though the corporate scavengers of the fossil fuel and mining companies are drooling over the prospects of a melting arctic in order to exploit previously inaccessible reserves of mineral and energy resources, the climate researchers say both the planetary and economic impacts should be taken extremely seriously.

The report's authors say that global financial and political leaders of the world continue to avoid the warnings of scientists when it comes to the dangers posed by the melting arctic.

As the Guardian's John Vidal reports:

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. 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.

"The global impact of a warming Arctic is an economic time bomb," said Gail Whiteman, a climate policy analyst at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and one of the authors of the report.       


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