Fred Pearce writes: Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming by journalist McKenzie Funk tells the story of the people and corporations trying to profit from climate change. Many of them don’t want to halt its progress, they want to bring it on.
Here we meet private fire-fighters in drought-hit Los Angeles, selling their services to insurance companies, Russian shipping lines eyeing new routes opened up by the melting Arctic, Dutchmen rebuilding flooded islands in the Maldives, and manufacturers of snow-making machines selling their products to distressed winter resorts.
They all have an interest in global warming’s destructive progress. Funk lays bare their vanities and insanities while also exposing the magic of markets that can profit from anything.”I’m interested in climate change as a driver of human behaviour,” says Funk. “It’s a window into our collective state of mind.”
Many environmentalists have been gratified recently to discover that corporations feature climate change in their annual reports, and entrepreneurs make pitches to bankers and hedge-fund managers that read like back-issues of the environmentalists’ own doomsday scenarios.
The case seems to be won that climate change, rising population, and declining resources – from metals to water and land – are brewing up an environmental apocalypse. Gordon Gekko and the wolves of Wall Street have finally got climate change.
But not so fast. While greens fear the collapsing ecosystems, rising tides, climate migrations and mega-famines, the corporates and speculators see opportunity. Environmental pain can be corporate gain. In this synthesis of some of his great magazine journalism over a number of years, Funk brings the “booming business of global warming” spectacularly to life.
Some of his climate profit-takers do something useful to stem the problem at source – by building bigger and better wind turbines, for instance. But they are a small minority. Most of the windfalls are elsewhere. Seed companies like Syngenta and Monsanto develop more drought-resistant crops. Engineers ship air-conditioners or seek contracts to build sea walls round coastal cities. [Continue reading…]