Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hot topic: the cost of Arctic thawing

In last night's entry, I listed climate change and hot topics as being relevant to this month's theme.  I present stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (the cost of Arctic thawing) on Daily Kos that are both--the estimated high cost of methane released as a result of global warming.  All stories are from Livescience.

Global Price Tag for Arctic Thawing: $60 Trillion
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
July 24, 2013 12:54pm ET
The beautiful, stark scenery of the Arctic may be priceless, but the warming of the region could come at a great cost to the world.

The Arctic's rapid warming could cost the global economy more than $60 trillion if melting permafrost releases huge quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, a new study finds. The cost nearly mirrors the $70 trillion size of the world economy in 2012.

Permanently frozen ground, called permafrost, beneath the Arctic's East Siberian Sea could belch out 50 billion tons of methane at any time, researchers said in an analysis published today (July 24) in the journal Nature. More than a trillion tons of methane is thought to be trapped in the Arctic Ocean's icy marine sediments in the form of what are called methane hydrates, some of it in shallow water.
With so much at stake, that figure was immediately disputed.

Arctic Methane Claims Questioned
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
July 26, 2013 05:19pm ET
A scientific controversy erupted this week over claims that methane trapped beneath the Arctic Ocean could suddenly escape, releasing huge quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas, in coming decades, with a huge cost to the global economy.

The issue being debated is this: Could the Arctic seafloor really fart out 50 billion tons of methane in the next few decades? In a commentary published in the journal Nature on Wednesday (July 24), researchers predicted that the rapid shrinking of Arctic sea ice would warm the Arctic Ocean, thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea and releasing methane gas trapped in the sediments. The big methane belch would come with a $60 trillion price tag, due to intensified global warming from the added methane in the atmosphere, the authors said.

But climate scientists and experts on methane hydrates, the compound that contains the methane, quickly shot down the methane-release scenario.
It turns out that the $60 trillion figure is the accumulated damage over the next two centuries.  Still, that's a lot of money.

Just the same, even without methane, more heat and drought is in store for the planet, as shown in the videos embedded in Warming and drought in NASA simulations of this century's climate.

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