50-gigatonne gas release to increase climate impacts such as flooding and damage to human health

Shell delays drilling in Alaskan Arctic

Scientists have predicted a decade-long economic disaster caused by an Arctic ‘time bomb’ made of methane.

Researchers have been concerned over the amount of methane escaping from the thawing permafrost for many years and now estimate that the damage caused by the changing atmosphere could amount to around €45 trillion globally - roughly the size of the entire global economy in 2012.

Although the powerful greenhouse gas has a short life-span of around ten years, 50-gigatonnes of methane in that time would increase climate impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, damage to agriculture and human health.

The findings were published in the journal Nature. Professor Gaille Whiteman, one of the journal’s authors said: “We think it’s incredibly important for world leaders to really discuss what are the implications of this methane release and what could we indeed do about it to hopefully prevent the whole burst from happening.”

The impacts of the rising levels of methane would most likely be felt in developing countries where issues such as flooding and sea level rise are already real threats.

It is believed that 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13% of undiscovered oil can be found in the Arctic waters and Lloyds of London believe

Satellite imagery has shown the rise in methane emerging primarily from the Arctic Circle but experts have warned that not enough is known about the likelihood of such a fast release of methane.