Melting permafrost in Arctic will have $70tn climate impact?

DSC_8484 Or so claims the Graun. Being totally shit journos they don't even include a link to the paper that is their source, but the answer is Climate policy implications of nonlinear decline of Arctic land permafrost and other cryosphere elements by Dmitry Yumashev et al., Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 1900 (2019). They also don't link to the press release, where we discover that 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). Nothing here is terribly surprising, except the $70T. In particular, the roundabout +5% makes it a fairly small effect well within the error margins of other parts: CO2 emissions, ECS, discount rate assumed, whatever.

But $70T is a surprisingly large number to me, in view of stuff like 500,000,000,000 is a small number. This turns out to be The NPV of the total economic effect of climate change, denoted as C_NPV, consists of mitigation costs, adaptation costs and climate-related economic impacts aggregated until 2300 and discounted using equity weighting and a pure time preference rate. So, OK, it's total not annual, OK, that probably makes sense. But then it becomes unexciting.


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Anonymous said...

"discounted using equity weighting and a pure time preference rate"

This kind of sentence always raises a small red flag with me.

1) equity weighting is great in theory, but in practice I've peer reviewed papers that in using equity weighting have created an implicit valuation that it is worse for pollution to kill a poor person than a rich person... this follows from 2 assumptions: A: that the value of a life is constant, and B: that an additional dollar is worth more to a poor person than a rich person. I'm kind of okay with both individually, but combined they lead to this conclusion that isn't really consistent with standard economic logic.

2) I'm not sure exactly what the paper did, but if they are solely relying on pure rate of time preference that isn't a reasonable approach. I like the Ramsey formulation, wherein discounting is related to the rate of economic growth (which goes well with the assumption that an extra dollar is worth less to a rich person).

In any case, both assumptions could lead to a large inflation of damages relative to a more standard approach - but it depends on the details of the methodology,


Anonymous said...

One more note: According to permafrost people, the correct term is "thawing" permafrost. After all, you don't "melt" a chicken when you take it out of the freezer, right?


Andy Mitchell said...

I'm not sure the cost of climate change in $ is even relevant once you have submerged all the world's river deltas.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, at Will Upload Whatever Trash, they have reached new levels of ignoring reality - they've posted https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/04/23/the-big-arctic-sea-ice-shift-of-2007-ice-refuses-to-melt/, trying to claim that Arctic sea ice is recovering based on cherry-picking some trends, while in the real world, https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/ shows that current sea ice extent has been record low all month long, and is a full six days ahead of the 2nd lowest sea ice extent... I wasn't surprised when the same guest poster looked at a single day's data back in February to claim that ice was regrowing (ignoring trends on all other dates), and that they didn't come back to issue a retraction when the ice dropped to a record low, but for them to make a new recovery post - that's chutzpah!



Whatever he cost of climate change in $ may be, if you divide seventy trillion dollars into a mean population of nine billion people spread over 300 years, you end up with permafrost melting costing seven cents a day per capita.

Call it the Law of the Absurdity of Large Numbers

Phil said...

Seven cents a day would be a larger number for someone at the global poverty income of $1.90 or less than it might be for you.
And seventy trillion dollars is just the Arctic.

When Bangladesh is 80% underwater, where will the people go?


The percentage of people living in extreme poverty decined from ~40% in 1980, to 8.6% last year-

Does Phil actually expect people to be poorer 300 years from now ?

He ought to look at some maps before repaeating that 80% factoid - there is a lot more to Bangladesh than the Sundarbans


Phil said...

Past performance is a guarantee of future results?

So SEC Rule 156 is wrong.

I have no idea if people will be richer or poorer in 300 years. It depends on things that have not happened yet.

Sea level rise will not exceed 1.5 meters?

Ice sheets must be much smaller than generally thought.
Who would have thunk.

crandles said...

>>>The NPV of the total economic effect of climate change, denoted as C_NPV, consists of mitigation costs, adaptation costs and climate-related economic impacts aggregated until 2300 and discounted using equity weighting and a pure time preference rate.

>>So, OK, it's total not annual

>if you divide seventy trillion dollars into a mean population of nine billion people spread over 300 years, you end up with permafrost melting costing seven cents a day per capita.

NPV is a form of total I suppose.

But it is incorrectly too low to divide by 300 years unless the interest rate arrived at is negligible.

Hank Roberts said...


Maybe Science will save us.


Courage Hank- look how the Cold War turned out

Andy Mitchell said...

"look how the Cold War turned out"

It went quiet for a bit and then the Russians changed theatres to cyberspace.


Andy, 29 years is quite a bit of quiet.
Hank, the group in question has had its support renewed through 2020

Marco said...

TCW, you can remove at least 5 years from that (Ukraine), although others would put it at the Munich Speech (in 2007, another 7 years earlier) and the way Russia handled Georgia in 2008.

Andy Mitchell said...

I hate to write anything that might excuse Putin, but I think the seminal moment was Dubya's invasion of Iraq. That gave the Russians good reason to return to the old paranoia, weakened American leadership of the West, and committed the US to war on two fronts at the same time so they had their hands full.

Phil said...

Arctic, permafrost, Antarctic, Ross Ice Shelf.


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