Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world. The researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost $60 trillion (£39 trillion), roughly the size of the global economy in 2012.
The impacts are most likely to be felt in developing countries they say. The research has been published in the journal Nature.
Scientists have had concerns about the impact of rising temperatures on permafrost for many years. Large amounts of methane are concentrated in the frozen Arctic tundra but are also found as semi-solid gas hydrates under the sea.
Previous work has shown that the diminishing ice cover in the East Siberian sea is allowing the waters to warm and the methane to leach out. Scientists have found plumes of the gas up to a kilometre in diameter rising from these waters.
In this study, the researchers have attempted to put an economic price on the climate damage that these emissions of methane could cause. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, even though it lasts less than a decade in the atmosphere.