Melting permafrost, melting budgets – the wear and tear of Arctic infrastructure

Scientists from George Washington University and Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences have recently estimated the future costs of infrastructure affected by climate change in the Arctic region, specifically by the impacts of permafrost thaw. The research covers the countries with the biggest areas of permafrost, namely, Alaska, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

Although the circumpolar Arctic is home for only about 0.15% of the world population, it is a big player in the global economy. The region holds a variety of natural resources including an estimated 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. The Arctic is facing the range of climate and environmental changes, which pose a risk to infrastructure, adding pressures on local and regional budgets. 

Researchers have calculated the climate expenses for the decade 2050-2059 under the RCP8.5 scenario (Figure 1). Overall, the permafrost will warm significantly across much of the Arctic, increasing by 3.7°C average in natural conditions.

The results show that infrastructure replacement costs in the Arctic are likely to increase by 27% or about $15.47 billion. In addition, more than 14% of total infrastructure assets are at risk of damage due to ground ice melt, adding up at least 1% for these costs.

Russia has the greatest projected increases in lifecycle costs – a 43% chunk of the total. To mitigate the impacts of increased wear and tear, Russia may have to spend $6.63 billion for lifecycle replacement by 2059, a 27.5% increase relative to their baseline.

Original source: Suter, Luis, Dmitry Streletskiy, and Nikolay Shiklomanov. “Assessment of the cost of climate change impacts on critical infrastructure in the circumpolar Arctic.” Polar Geography (2019): 1-20. 

Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/1088937X.2019.1686082

Featured image: By Mahkeo on Unsplash

 

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