We support the call for more rigorous integrated modelling of the costs and benefits of Arctic warming (G. Whiteman et al. Nature 499, 401–403; 2013). Such models should examine the distribution of these costs and benefits within, as well as between, countries.

Melting permafrost, as Whiteman et al. show, gives rise to costly methane emissions. In addition, it damages the infrastructure needed for shipping and transportation, and for gas, oil and mineral mining, at high northern latitudes; this is because previously solid ground loses its structural integrity.

The Madrid-based humanitarian organization DARA expects the cost of this damage in the Arctic to reach US$80 billion annually by 2030 (see go.nature.com/vnlzax). These losses will be unevenly distributed, with more than 90% likely to occur in Russia. The benefits from natural-resource extraction will also vary significantly between countries.

Indigenous peoples in the far north, who are already marginalized, will be subjected to further economic hardship and deteriorating conditions for their traditional hunting and land-use practices.

We believe that the uneven distribution of costs and benefits of Arctic warming calls for a new approach to governance in the region. This should ensure equitable compensation and support for those affected most.