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Bard Center for Environmental Policy Director Eban Goodstein Coauthors New Report that Says Melting Arctic Ice Could Cost Trillions by 2050

Darren O'Sullivan

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—A report released today says that the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice could cost the United States a minimum of $2.4 trillion by 2050. The study, coauthored by Bard Center for Environmental Policy Director Eban S. Goodstein, is the first to quantify the global cost of losing the Arctic’s climate cooling services. The report, issued today at a press conference in Iqaluit, Nunavut—a southeast Baffin Island town where G7 finance ministers began a two-day meeting to discuss the global economy—estimates that this year alone, the global cost of retreating Arctic sea ice and thawing permafrost caused by climate change could be between $61 billion and $371 billion. The report estimates that these costs could climb to the tens of trillions of dollars by the end of the century unless governments implement policies to reverse climate change.

“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 Goodstein. “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 product from the economies of Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom combined.”

The report, “An Initial Estimate of the Cost of Lost Climate Regulation Services Due to Changes in the Arctic Cryosphere,” notes that the Arctic region is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet. The loss of vast swaths of sea ice and snow that used to reflect sunlight results in the absorption of more solar energy, leading to warming. The thawing of permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, is releasing large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The increase in warming caused by a melting Arctic reinforces the need for governments to set meaningful CO2 reduction targets to address climate change. 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 equivalents. Those were multiplied by the social cost of carbon, producing the range of initial dollar estimates cited in the report.

News of the report was picked up in numerous news outlets following its release Friday:

“This year alone, Arctic melting may warm the Earth an amount equivalent to pumping three billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere,” said Eugenie Euskirchen, coauthor of the report and a scientist from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks’ Institute of Arctic Biology. “That’s equal to 40 percent of all U.S. industrial emissions this year, or bringing online more than 500 large coal-burning power plants.”

To view the report and background materials:

Eugenie Euskirchen, University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Institute of Arctic Biology, 907.687.3864,

Eban Goodstein, director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College, New York, 503.806.6370,

The Bard Center for Environmental Policy was created to promote education, research, and public service on critical issues pertaining to the natural and built environments. Its primary goal is to improve environmental policies by facilitating the use of the best available scientific knowledge in the policy-making process at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Bard CEP’s premise is that to address environmental problems and pursue sustainable use of natural resources, scientists, economists, lawyers, ethicists, and policy makers must understand one another’s perspectives and values, and communicate effectively with the general public.

Directed by Eban S. Goodstein, Bard CEP is an innovative graduate program leading to either the master of science degree in environmental policy or a professional certificate in environmental policy. Next fall, the center will launch a new master’s degree in climate science and policy. The emphasis on science-based policy enables students to progress from knowledge of the issues to the formulation of feasible, effective policy responses. The program’s unique combination of interdisciplinary modular study, a full-time internship, and intense thesis research allows students to delve deeply into individual areas of interest. For more information about the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, please call 845-758-7073, e-mail, or visit

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This event was last updated on 02-05-2010