If global warming occurs at the pace that most scientists anticipate, there is going to be money in it for those who have the right product in the right place at the right time. George Bernard Shaw once noted that profits are made in the dark; now they will be made in the heat.
Some farmers in Britain are already finding that longer summers mean a lower animal feed bill. (“Every day that the sheep can eat grass instead of us having to carry out cake is a bonus,” a Welsh farmer named John Davies told a local newspaper. “We should look at the effects of global warming and learn to work with it and use it effectively.”) A Central American company is pitching Americans a tree called the leucaena, which they claim has the potential to sequester carbon dioxide — a source of global warming. And an outerwear manufacturer in New York now makes the linings of its winter jackets removable after finding that its lightweight “microfiber windbreaker” was selling year round.
Then there are the experimenters. Klaus Lackner, a geophysics professor at Columbia University, is working on a windmill-size structure that takes carbon dioxide from the air and traps it. In general, though, the Europeans are far ahead of the Americans in designing for a future they see as inevitable. The Dutch have a particular interest in getting on top of the global-warming market. In Amsterdam, innovative architects are designing boutique floating houses, offices and even stadiums, anticipating the day when the Netherlands’ low landmass is inundated.
But all this is small change compared to the potential profiteering at the top of the globe, where the icecap is melting. Millions of acres of ice may soon become suitable for nautical traffic and oil exploration. An estimated quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources are in the Arctic. The first winner may be the Denver investor Pat Broe, who paid roughly $7 in 1997 for the port of Churchill on Hudson Bay in Canada. Currently billed on Web sites as “the polar-bear capital of the world,” Churchill stands poised to be at the receiving end of a vast increase in sea traffic as shipping from Russia to North America becomes easier through the melt. That’s good news for Broe, whose purchase may be the best deal since Peter Minuit bought Manhattan. What a killing.