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Cynical Companies Are Already Scheming How Getting Rich off Global Warming

May 5, 2013 in Blogs

By Alexander Zaitchik, Salon

Local officials and enviros are making plans for a post-global warming America. And so are profit-seeking businesses.

On the opening morning of the inaugural National Adaptation Forum, I was eating breakfast at a stand-up table in the exhibition hall when a mustachioed man of middle age plopped his cherry Danish next to my pile of conference literature, a mess of pamphlets and reports with titles like Getting Climate Smart: A Water Preparedness Guide for State Action, and Successful Adaptation: Linking Science and Policy in a Rapidly Changing World. The nametag dangling above the Danish identified the man as Michael Hughes, director of public works for the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst. Like many attendees, Hughes was part of a new national emergency-response team without being fully aware of it. He had arrived in Denver knowing little about “adaptation,” the anemic catchall for attempts to fortify our natural and built environments against the epochal temperature spike in progress.

“I hadn’t even heard the term ‘adaptation’ a month ago,” he told me, taking a bite.

He didn’t know anything about the 20 federal agencies that just released adaptation planning studies, or the dozen coastal states negotiating the early stages of “managed retreat” and “coastal abandonment,” buzzwords for the work, underway from Puget Sound to Brighton Beach, of accommodating rising seas by contracting the contours of the U.S. map. Hughes didn’t know about any of this. He just knew that the Elmhurst sewage and water systems were buckling under the strains of the new normal, and that his job was figuring out what to do about it. “The floods keep coming, they keep getting worse, and every time there’s damage, everyone blames me,” he said. “I’m here to learn more about what’s happening, and talk to people dealing with the same problems.”

For three days in April, the downtown Denver Marriot was Mecca for people like Hughes. More than 500 registrants from the government, NGO, and university research worlds gathered to network and strategize amid a dense schedule of workshops that could double as creative sessions for the next Roland Emmerich cataclysm flick. Overflow crowds …read more


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