Climate change: Missed opportunity?

04Jan11

One of my colleagues recently said, “I don’t believe in global warming. I’m a [follower of political party].” Since then, I’ve been wondering how climate change became a political issue.

In part, it’s because big-business interests and talking heads have made it a political issue. But fundamentally, I think discrediting climate change is really about money: There’s a good buck to be made in maintaining the status quo.

Unfortunately, there’s a flip side to that coin.

Yesterday Munich Re AG—a huge global reinsurer—reported $37 billion in insurance losses last year to weather-related catastrophes. And it blamed them in part on global warming:

The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change,” the company said in a statement.

Like it or not, the world is changing. And continuing to deny/ignore that could cost American businesses in two ways. First, we’ll likely incur huge financial losses as “climate events” increase (think crop failures, property damage, lost productivity, etc.). And perhaps more importantly, we’ll miss out on emerging markets for new, earth-friendly technologies.

It occurred to me tonight that getting more Americans to “believe in” climate change could be as simple as re-framing the issue. What if we looked at global warming as an economic opportunity, rather than an environmental problem?

If the topic comes up with my colleague again, I know what I’ll say: “Forget about the planet. Don’t worry about the whales. Just think about how much money we can make combating climate change!”



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