Want to know the dirty little secret that may cause many Republicans to believe in climate change? The secret is: there’s lots money to be made. Indeed, climate change a/k/a global warming could unleash economic opportunities on par with the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution that kicked into high gear with the Internet. Here are some ways in which capitalists may capitalize on climate change:
Construction: Figuring out how to waterproof homes and businesses against flood damage could be a massive business breakthrough.
Real estate: Developers and home buyers may add a fourth “location” to the adage “location, location and location.” That fourth “location” is “location away from flood zones.” Demand and property values could change significantly for homes and businesses located in flood danger zones. Likewise, officials and owners will need to make strategic decisions about locating schools, hospitals, power plants and other essential facilities in such areas.
Insurance: If it’s not already the case, home insurance companies may increasingly treat homeowners in coastal areas the way health insurance companies treat would-be customers who smoke, are overweight and who have preexisting health conditions: they’ll charge such homeowners much more for insurance, and they might deny coverage altogether if permitted to do so.
Furniture and appliances: A whole new industry could explode in manufacturing waterproof home furnishings, wall coverings and appliances, so that residents hit by the next hurricane won’t have to throw away all the contents of their homes.
Landscaping: Landscape architects may spend lots of time and energy developing and marketing landscape designs for homes that are primarily geared toward drainage and other flood control rather than pure aesthetics.
Electronics: Businesses that develop methods to protect electronics in homes, businesses, subway systems and power plants, including the electrical grid itself, against freshwater and seawater flooding and corrosion could find themselves in great demand.
Portable clean energy: Hurricane Sandy showed the devastating effects of being without electricity for hot showers, heating, cooking, communications, pumping gasoline, etc. Technologies such as portable solar power are being sold right now that could provide some of those needs without relying on the electrical grid.
Disaster services: Companies that manufacture portable generators, port-a-potties, dry foods, temporary shelters and other products that are deployed on the ground during disasters may see demand for their products and services skyrocket after Hurricane Sandy and other recent natural disasters such as 2011’s Hurricane Irene. Indeed, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) doles out many contracts to private businesses involved in disaster relief.
Don’t forget politics
Note that the potential business developments listed above could be more in demand if nothing is done on climate change and we have more frequent, more severe storms as a result. Indeed, former Republican Florida Governor John E. “Jeb” Bush announced over a year ago that he was forming a for-profit disaster response company. Author Naomi Klein, in her book “The Shock Doctrine,” calls this type of mentality “disaster capitalism.” A key question, therefore, will be whether there are financial and political incentives for Republicans and conservatives to embrace the idea of climate change and to join others in a kind of liberal Shock Doctrine to try to tackle it with government involvement. Financially, there may be opportunities in computer and other technology that predicts and measures the effects of climate change, as well as the danger that providing disaster relief products and services might be impossible if the effects of unchecked climate change are too great. Politically, the prospect of millions of voters, sick and tired of more frequent and more intense storms killing their loved ones and destroying their property, demanding solutions from their politicians may provide some of these incentives.
There may be some Republicans and conservatives who, for ideological or financial reasons (i.e., they’re in the pockets of the fossil fuel companies), will deny climate change even if they and their families find themselves knee-deep in its effects. For many others, however, the combination of compelling science and money-making opportunities may forge an unusual and large coalition of people who recognize that climate change has arrived, and that only focusing on after-the-fact solutions may be insufficient.