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.