One of the fascinating things about last week’s EECO conference was that no one was there to debate the terrifying science of climate change. Everyone at the leading edge has moved on to economics: who will make money from climate change, and how? Public and institutional interest in the issue is reflected in the growing number of investment products offering plays on sustainable developments, such as GEX, the exchange-traded fund of the world’s largest alternative energy companies, to several new vehicles based on Michael Jantzi’s indexes. Religiously flavoured sustainable funds are also now becoming available, such as Jantzi’s “Maimonides Fund”; undoubtedly, there are Christian and Muslim equivalents.
I take a little solace from the many bright and inventive minds determined to make money from climate change. If the price of oil stays high, that much inventiveness and economic promise can deliver important solutions, especially if government starts offering supportive policies. But we’ll have to run pretty fast. At EECO, we spent the day in a windowless basement commenting on the economics of climate change and its freak weather, then emerged to discover extensive tree damage and power outages from a freak storm. Speeches about impacts on water were echoed by front-page articles on the long drying of the U.S. South, and a New Scientist cover article on the wrenching impact of hotter temperatures and less water in Australia.