The Price Of Arctic Ice

Putting an economic value on the loss of the Arctic's climate regulating abilities

A report by the Pew Environment Group entitled An Initial Estimate of the Cost of Lost Climate Regulation Services Due to Changes in the Arctic Cryosphere is an attempt by scientists to put a dollar value on the climate regulating services of the Arctic Cryosphere.

The report states:
In economic terms, estimated costs in 2010 from the decline in albedo and increase in methane emissions range from $61 billion to $371 billion.  By 2050, this number rises to a cumulative range of $2.4 trillion to $24.1 trillion.

From the Pew Trusts Newsroom:
“Putting a dollar figure on the Arctic’s climate services allows us to better understand both the region’s immense importance and the enormous price we will pay if the ice is lost,” said Dr. Eban Goodstein, co-author of the report and an economist who directs the Bard Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College in New York. “At the mid-range of our estimates, the cumulative cost of the melting Arctic in the next 40 years is equivalent to the annual gross domestic products of Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom combined.”

To arrive at the economic cost of Arctic melting, the report’s authors converted projected trends in snow and ice loss and methane releases into carbon dioxide emissions equivalents. Those were multiplied by the social cost of carbon, an estimate by economists of impacts from climate change on agriculture, energy production, water availability, sea level rise and flooding and other factors. This calculation produced the range of initial dollar estimates cited in the report.

The report “An Initial Estimate of the Cost of Lost Climate Services Due to Changes in the Arctic Cryosphere” notes that this region is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet. The loss of heat-reflecting sea ice and snow results in the absorption of more solar energy leading to warming. The thawing of permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Increased warming from these effects, in turn, leads to more melting and thawing in a feedback loop.

The report was released by the Pew Environment Group’s Oceans North campaign which promotes sound stewardship of the Arctic Ocean.  The authors are solely responsible for its content, which was reviewed by more than a dozen economists and Arctic scientists.

A summary and the full report are both available as pdf files from: