The financial cost of climate change

white polar bear on white snowy field near canal during daytime
Melting permafrost does more than threaten polar bears and arctic animals | Photo by Pixabay on

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | April 24th, 2019

Melting permafrost and an arctic damaged from environmental changes could cost the world a pretty penny.

Permafrost–areas of rock or sediment that are frozen for at least two consecutive years–is thawing. And it’s not doing the environment any favors.

As permafrost thaws, the sediment released previously trapped methane gas and carbon. When released into the atmosphere, these elements will only accelerate our already rapidly rising global temperature by roughly 5%, costing humans a collective $70 trillion from the extra damage. The severity of consequences from this thaw has lead scientists to label melting permafrost a “tipping point”.

Tipping points are natural events that tip us even further into environmental ruin. Like dominoes, these events can stack and trigger each other, leading to a truly unfortunate series of events.

Research into this particular tipping point was conducted by a team at the UK’s Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business in Lancaster. The report was published in Nature Communications. Scientists monitored the thaw rate of the permafrost zone and took samples of deep soil to determine the rate of carbon and methane release.

This new discovery seems dire, but if countries comply with their Paris agreements, the permafrost thaw can be slowed, reducing the additional climate damage from $70 trillion to roughly $25 trillion. Either way, it seems like we’re paying.

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