Arctic warming will accelerate climate change and impact global economy

Carbon released into the atmosphere by the increasing loss of Arctic permafrost, combined with higher solar absorption by the Earth’s surface due to the melting of sea ice and land snow, will accelerate climate change – and have a multi-trillion dollar impact on the world economy.

A new paper in Nature Communications reveals a combination of these factors has the potential to increase the long-term economic impact of climate change by just under $70 trillion, under mitigation levels consistent with current national pledges to cut carbon emissions (5% of the estimated total cost of climate change for this scenario).

Under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Paris Agreement target of global temperature rises being limited to 1.5C from pre-industrial levels, the extra impact drops to $25 trillion (4% of the total cost for this scenario). In both cases, the primary driver behind the additional costs is the emitted permafrost carbon.

The interdisciplinary research team hope their assessments will provide a better understanding of the socio-economic risks from climate change under different scenarios and help guide policy-makers towards prudent decisions on emissions reduction targets.

Researchers explored simulations of complex, state-of-the-art, physical models to quantify the strength of the permafrost carbon feedback (PCF), driven by the additional carbon released from thawing permafrost, and of the surface albedo feedback (SAF), driven by the extra solar energy absorbed by the Earth’s surface as the white sea ice and land snow cover declines, exposing darker ocean and land.

Nearly all climate policy studies to date have implied a constant SAF and zero PCF. However, recent observations and computer models show the permafrost feedback is the stronger of the two and that both are nonlinear, their strength changing in complex ways as the climate warms. This affects their impact on both the global climate and economy.

“Arctic sea ice and land snow currently contribute around a third each to the global albedo feedback,” said lead author Dmitry Yumashev, of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at Lancaster University.

“These two components are set to peak for global temperatures within the range covered by the Paris Agreement, but if the climate warms further, the summer and spring sea ice and land snow covers will retreat further north and the albedo feedback will actually weaken.

“The permafrost feedback, however, grows progressively stronger in warmer climates. Both feedbacks are characterised by nonlinear responses to warming, including a varying lag between rising global temperature and permafrost carbon emissions.

“Compared with zero PCF and constant SAF from present-day climate – legacy values used in climate policy modelling to this point – the combined nonlinear PCF and SAF cause significant extra warming globally under low and medium emissions scenarios.

Low emissions scenarios in the study include meeting the 1.5°C and 2°C Paris Agreement targets relative to pre-industrial conditions by 2100, while medium emissions scenarios include mitigation levels consistent with current national pledges (NDCs). Under the NDCs, the world is set to warm by around 3°C relative to pre-industrial by 2100.

High emissions scenarios, such as the current business as usual trajectory (BaU) – expected to lead to around 4°C of warming by 2100 and cause by far the highest impacts on ecosystems and societies – are also included. Under these, the strength of the PCF reaches its peak and does not increase further, while the continued weakening of the SAF gradually cancels the warming effect of the PCF.

For the purposes of the research, other major planetary feedbacks, such as those driven by changes in clouds and water vapour in response to warming, are assumed to remain constant, supported by the last two generations of climate models.

Under all scenarios, using the nonlinear Arctic feedbacks compared to previous constant values leads to an increase to the total cost of climate change, consisting of the mitigation costs of cutting emissions, climate adaptation costs and residual climate-related impacts. The increases occur primarily through additional temperature-driven impacts on economy, ecosystems and human health, and additional impacts from sea level rise.

All costs were estimated using simulations in specially developed integrated assessment model PAGE-ICE, which includes simple statistical representations of the Arctic feedbacks derived from complex models. It has multiple updates to climate science and economics, including up-to-date uncertainty estimates.

Under the NDCs scenario, the additional estimated impact based on thousands of simulations of the nonlinear PCF and SAF is just under $70 trillion compared to their previously used values – exceeding by around 10 times current estimates for long-terms economic gains from transit shipping routes and mineral resource extraction in the Arctic region.

With previous estimates for Arctic feedbacks, the total cost of climate change associated with the 1.5C and 2C scenarios is virtually the same and is around $600 trillion – in comparison, the estimated cost of business as usual is around $2000 trillion. Nonlinear PCF and SAF add further $25 trillion to the $600 trillion figure for the 1.5C scenario and $34 trillion for the 2C scenario. Thus, the nonlinear Arctic feedbacks make the more ambitious 1.5C target marginally more economically attractive.

Dr Yumashev added: “Our findings support the need for more proactive mitigation measures to keep global temperature rise well below 2C.

“We hope our work will lead to further assessments of multiple nonlinear processes in the Earth’s climate system, both those associated with the Arctic and beyond.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. Ian Plimer is an Australian geologist, professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne, professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide, and the director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies. He has published 130 scientific papers, six books and edited the Encyclopedia of Geology.
    Born February 12 1946
    (age 71 )
    Residence
    Australia
    Nationality
    Australian
    Fields
    Earth Science,Geology,Mining Engineering
    Institutions
    University of New England,University of Newcastle,University of Melbourne , University of Adelaide
    Alma mater
    University of New South Wales,Macquarie University
    Thesis
    The pipe deposits of tungsten-molybdenum-bismuth in eastern Australia(1976)
    Notable awards
    Eureka Prize(1995, 2002),Centenary Medal(2003),Clarke Medal(2004)

    Where Does the Carbon Dioxide Really Come From?

    Professor Ian Plimer could not have said it better!

    PLIMER : “Okay, here’s the bombshell. The volcanic eruption in Iceland . Since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet – all of you. Of course, you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress – it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans and all animal life.
    I know….it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kids “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad,
    Nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cent light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs…..well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days.
    The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in just four days – yes, FOUR DAYS – by that volcano in Iceland has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud at any one time – EVERY DAY.
    I don’t really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth.
    Yes, folks, Mt Pinatubo was active for over one year – think about it.
    Of course, I shouldn’t spoil this ‘touchy-feely tree-hugging’ moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keeps happening despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.
    And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud, but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year.
    Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you, on the basis of the bogus ‘human-caused’ climate-change scenario.
    Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention ‘Global Warming’ anymore, but just ‘Climate Change’- you know why?
    It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century and these global warming bullshit artists got caught with their pants down.
    And, just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme – that whopping new tax – imposed on you that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer.
    It won’t stop any volcanoes from erupting, that’s for sure.
    But, hey, relax…… and have a nice day!”

  2. Rather odd you show polar bears which are the “canary in the coal mine” of the hysterical global warming crowd. The polar bear population has increased significantly over the last 20 years and is now a threat to some communities due to over population. Kind of ruins the “global warming” narrative, eh?

    You sound s much like Occasional Cortex………”the world is ending in 12 years!”

    Sure it is…………NOT!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.