The business opportunity that is climate change

Power lines rest at a 45-degree angle on Clinton Avenue in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 in Huntington, N.Y.

Climate change is a business opportunity.

There. I said it. Also? It's true. And kind of a paradox.

Global warming's been a bit buzzy this week, what with former Treasury Secretary  and current Republican  Henry Paulson in the New York Times this past weekend coming out in favor of a tax on carbon as the best way to control global warming, and a report from Paulson and others laying out the economic risks of climate change (Although, honestly, couldn't they have come up with a better name for the report than 'Risky Business?').

Six or seven years ago we sent Stephen Beard and Sam Eaton off to do a series we called 'Frozen Assets'  an exploration of the ways in which businesses would be able to take advantage of a warming planet. Back then, we concentrated on the areas that were (and mostly still are) literally frozen  Norway, Arctic Canada, and Greenland  and what would happen up there; oil exploration, fishing opportunities and shipping routes through the Northwest passage.

Since then, as the Paulson report and countless others have made clear, the obvious downsides have been mounting: decreased productivity, coastal property damage, infrastructure problems, lower crop yields and growing public health concerns. I could go on, but it'd be easier if you just have a look at the report, which I highly recommend.

Here  at long last  is my point. There's a way that capitalism  arguably the root cause of global warming  can help us find a way out. Or, at least, a way to mitigate the looming apocalypse. If companies, governments and people realize that market forces can work to our advantage in this  without resorting reflexively to well-entrenched positions  well, then maybe we've got a chance.

Or, to paraphrase Ezra Klein, maybe we're just screwed.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...