For some, climate change means irreversible damage to Earth’s ecosystems and food insecurity. For others, it heralds a new way to turn a profit.

In his new book, Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming, journalist Mckenzie Funk reveals a problematic, if not entirely unsurprising, result of global climate change. During an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air Jan. 28, Funk discussed how corporations and countries alike are plotting how to best take advantage of the melting ice.

Countries near the Arctic such as the United States, Greenland, Canada and Russia may benefit financially from the ice melts. Newly created shipping lanes in the Northwest Passage could encourage Canada, the country most likely to claim their ownership to exact payments from ships while Greenland could tap into the mineral deposits exposed by ice melts.

Above all else, Funk believes Arctic countries will most benefit from increased exposure to oil-rich Arctic locations.

“The main benefit right now is oil and gas,” said Funk. “Up to a quarter of the world’s remaining oil and gas is in the Arctic and there’s been a major push to go get it.”

The same climate change that provides a longer drilling season for oil prospectors in the Arctic also destabilizes urban infrastructure. In places like Russia, which has particularly muddy soil, the Earth’s melting permafrost could potentially buckle roads break pipes, and weaken building structures.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an internationally staffed organization charged with assessing the risk of human-induced climate change, predicts severe changes to the Earth’s continents.

In Latin America, the IPCC expects a gradual replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazonia and a significant change in water availability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation.

They also project that by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to increased water stress, and the yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% in some regions.

Overall, they warn that food security, including its accessibility and production, “may be severely compromised.”

Profiteering from climate change may decrease efforts to reduce it. Even worse, such profiteering may encourage beneficiaries to exacerbate the problem to reap any additional benefits. In the meantime, the world’s most disenfranchised wait, powerless to do anything else.

– Emily Bajet

Sources: NASA, IPPC, NPR
Photo: TED Oxbridge