If you spend enough time around researchers or market analysts you will learn one adage—it’s not what a company says that is important, it’s where a company puts its money that matters. This is not just about “following the money” per se, but trying to determine where a company thinks it is wisest to invest for the most return.
As you read McKenzie Funk’s Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming it is readily apparent that there are a lot of people all around the world who are betting on a very different climate in the near term.
Whether it’s the coming thaw in the Arctic that will allow for reliable shipping through the famed Northwest Passage or the inevitable fight that will occur over the oil and minerals long buried beneath ice choked landscapes there are companies and governments betting on that future. It is telling that they are not betting on a future where the potential warming stalls out and the landscape looks like it does today. How does that make you feel about international climate accords? Thought so.
The business of global warming is actually pretty frightening. As wildfire season begins again in the American west—if it ever really ends anymore as persistent drought is the rule of the day—insurance giants are turning to private fire companies to protect high value properties. It’s a libertarian’s wet dream in warmer world. Private fire companies pale in comparison to what the business of water in a hotter and drier world looks like. Parts of the world will also get wetter, but the amount of potable freshwater will decline so it is not really a net gain.
Funk’s book is not just about the business of global warming, but the radical restructuring of our complex civilization that may occur because of climate change. Some places will witness sea levels rise more than others because of plate tectonics, ocean sub-floor, etc. It’s not fair because the places most likely to be dramatically affected are the same places that emit very little carbon on a per capita basis. No one in Bangladesh is responsible for global warming.
Apparently there are winners in this global reordering as Greenland will likely move closer to independence based on the fact that it has rich resources which will become viable for extraction as glaciers melt into the sea. Greenland’s gain, Denmark’s loss, and the world is just screwed in general.
The one real takeaway from Windfall was that the people who are most likely to see their lives washed away are the poorest and least responsible for the changes brought about in the Anthropocene. Rich people in the developed western world will build flood barriers and desalination plants and move to higher ground, but there are billions of people who cannot. How chaotic will our future be when we have displaced hundreds of millions if not billions of people? That is really scary.