Profits(?) Of Doom

  • Date: 06/05/14
  • Judith Curry, Climate Etc.

For most of the world’s population, climate change means nothing but trouble. For a few, it means laughing all the way to the bank. – George Black

In OnEarth Magazine, George Black has an article Profits of Doom, that reviews the book Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming, by McKenzie Funk.  Excerpts:

“The debate around climate change is shifting away from cost and risk toward the question of how to capitalize on exciting opportunities.”

For most people, says Elke Weber of Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, it’s difficult to achieve a sense of urgency because the “time-delayed, abstract, and often statistical nature of the risks of global warming does not evoke strong visceral reactions.” The pursuit of profit works in the opposite way; the viscera and the frontal lobe of the brain operate in tandem. Strike now, before the other guy does; place your bets decisively on disaster.

Funk divides his tour of these new profit centers into three segments: The Melt, The Drought, and The Deluge. But a single theme runs through all three: there will be winners and losers, and how the competition shakes out will be determined by money and power.

Funk devotes a chapter to the aspirations of Greenland, which he thinks may become “the first country in the world created by global warming.” In this Danish possession (which is 50 times larger than the mother country), massive deposits of minerals will appear miraculously from beneath melting glaciers. Valuable fish stocks are migrating into Greenland’s coastal waters as ocean temperatures climb. Disaster tourists are flocking to watch icebergs calve and collapse. The independence movement is salivating.

Funk hits his richest vein in the world of business. His most subtle and illuminating chapter looks at Shell’s huge bet on the Arctic petroleum rush—the quest for 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that “has men running around like Elizabethan invaders, claiming virgin territory.”

But when climate legislation foundered and U.N. conferences failed to secure significant global agreements on carbon emissions, Shell’s philosophy pivoted. Its focus was no longer on how oil and gas production would worsen global warming but on how global warming would open up opportunities for oil and gas production. Shell dropped all new funding for wind and solar energy; instead, it began sinking billions into Arctic oil and Canadian tar sands.

In terms of ‘laughing all the way to the bank’, Al Gore is enjoying a hearty chuckle [link].

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