Despite a small but vocal group of climate change deniers, it is widely accepted that global warming is going to create a host of problems for humanity. But for some companies, one person’s cost is another's gain
Rising sea levels, heatwaves, wildfires and droughts are among the most severe impacts of global warming listed by the Union of Concerned Scientists – but a number of huge corporations have found ways to profit from climate change.
Preparation for the risks of climate change is already underway for many companies.
CDP – a charity that has collected corporate environmental data from more than 6,000 global businesses as part of a mission to encourage major companies to disclose their carbon impact – says the majority of the 6,000 majority of firms believe the threat of climate change to be “real and serious”.
Coca-Cola fears a lack of access to water could affect production of its soft drinks, Walt Disney worries temperatures could be too hot for visitors to its theme parks and AT&T is concerned that more frequent extreme weather events could knock out its telecoms towers.
On the other hand, despite the risks it poses to the planet and humankind, some companies are identifying ways to profit from climate change – although, it must be said, often providing benefits to society, as well as their own coffers.
Companies that could profit from climate change
In Apple’s vision of the climate change post-apocalypse, iPhones remain a number one best-seller and could be used to assist people in disaster scenarios.
According to the information submitted to CDP, Apple’s flagship product “can serve as a flashlight or a siren; they can provide first aid instructions; they can act as a radio; and they can be charged for many days via car batteries or even hand cranks.”
It added: “Over time, as people begin to experience severe weather events with greater frequency, we expect an increasing need for confidence and preparedness in the arena of personal safety and the wellbeing of loved ones.”
The Apple Watch was also referenced as a product that could experience a growth in sales because of its ability to receive emergency alerts, the Find My Friends app and the flashlight function.
The company based its assessments on the increase in demand for its products witnessed following 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and estimates that climate change could add $920m (£711.53m) to its bottom line.
Despite its predicted profits boon, Apple is working to combat climate change and powers all its facilities and stores with 100% renewable energy and has committed $2.5bn (£1.93bn) to environmental projects.
Beer is another product where sales are impacted heavily by weather.
During the UK’s summer heatwave, supermarkets credited the hot weather and England’s progress during the World Cup for increasing beer demand by as much as 70%.
Brewing company Molson Coors therefore regards the potential for more frequent heatwaves as a result of global warming as an opportunity to profit.
It reported to CDP: “If we have more warm days or the summer season is extended, we have more opportunity for sales.”
Molson Coors predicted that longer summers could contribute an additional $1m (£0.77m) to sales but noted that extreme weather could impact supply.
Google’s parent company Alphabet claims to be “certain” the impacts of global warming could boost revenues by $142m (£110m).
The majority of this additional income would come as a result of increased use of Google Earth by climate scientists and concerned individuals to visualise climate change and analyse data.
In the CDP report, it said: “If customers value Google Earth Engine as a tool to examine the physical changes to the Earth’s natural resources and climate, this could result in increased customer loyalty or brand value.
“This opportunity driver could have a positive impact on our brands.”
Alphabet’s “secretive” Google X facility is also working on kites that convert wind energy to electricity and delivery drones to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation.
Philip Morris, the tobacco company that produces Marlboro cigarettes, is another to note the opportunities climate change could present.
It believes that more extreme weather patterns could cut costs in the production processes behind cigarette manufacturing.
The company claims that heavier rainfall could help tobacco plants grow and lengthen its lifecycle, cutting $10m (£7.7m), while higher global temperatures would limit the need for fire-powered drying plants – which could save up to $1m (£0.77m).
Nestle, the world’s largest food and drink company, believes extreme climate patterns could help with the growth of the crops used in its products.
It identified cocoa, sugar and soy as some of the crops that could be harvested more frequently under a warmer global climate.
However, the Climatic Change journal predicts that global warming could have negative implications for global cocoa output and will see many cocoa-producing areas become unsuitable for growing the cocoa tree.
Nestle is still considered a global leader in tackling climate change and has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 39% over the past decade.
Rising temperatures and more frequent droughts are likely to have a significant impact on crop yields as farmers look to feed a growing population.
Agrochemical company Mansanto’s answer to this issue was to bio-engineer drought resistant crops and its patented DroughtGuard corn was the first to be made commercially available.
In its filings to CDP in 2013, the company claimed it was “positioned well to deliver products to farmers that are climate-resilient” and said it saw some impacts of climate change as an “opportunity”.
Since then, the company has been acquired by German life sciences company Bayer AG and operates under its crop sciences division.
Bayer – which owns Bundesliga football club Bayer 04 Leverkusen – also anticipates demand for its anti-malaria products, such as mosquito nets, could increase as temperatures rise to tropical levels in places that currently have more temperate climates.
Air conditioning companies could also profit from climate change
British entrepreneur and Virgin founder Richard Branson has also been vocal on the impact of climate change in certain industries.
In a blog post on the Virgin website, he argues that global warming will create greater demand for cooling systems and that extreme heat could lead to a $2tn (£1.55tn) loss in labour productivity as soon as 2030.
Mr Branson has backed the Global Cooling prize – an innovation fund to find climate-friendly solutions to higher temperatures.
US home improvements retailer Home Depot also foresees this growth in the market and confided to CDP that air conditioning units, fans and other appliances could see a “higher demand should temperatures increase”.