Loss of sea ice, melting of snow, and thawing of permafrost in the circumpolar Arctic will cost the world $2.4 trillion to $24.1 trillion in economic losses by 2050, and up to $91.3 trillion by 2100, according to a new report by the Pew Environmental Group. The report –– available at this link  –– combines projections of Arctic warming and climate feedbacks with resource economics.

The study tracked expected carbon releases as a result of less reflection of light and heat (albedo effect) from snow and ice melting and the increase in methane emissions as permafrost thaws. According to Scott Highleyman, international Arctic director for the Pew Environmental Group, methane, which is trapped in frozen ground, is far more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, so permafrost thaw has a dramatic impact on the rest of the world.

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The rapid warming of the Arctic, which is proceeding at a rate at least twice that of the world as a whole, and the subsequent melt and thaw of ice, snow, and permafrost is compromising the region's function as the "air conditioner for the world," Highleyman said. "I'm hopeful, very hopeful that it directs some attention to why Arctic ice is so important to the world and why we need a frozen Arctic," he said. "It turns out that a frozen Arctic is very valuable."