Will 'climate services' be allowed to profit from climate crisis?

Posted Aug 23, 2019 by Karen Graham
As the climate crisis deepens, more and more companies offering "climate services" are springing up. This raises an important question - How do we avoid a future where the best data for saving lives is only available to those who can afford it?
:The headlights shining underwater kind of freaked me out   wrote the photogrqapher. Image taken in ...
:The headlights shining underwater kind of freaked me out," wrote the photogrqapher. Image taken in New Orleans in May 2018.
Bart Everson (CC BY 2.0)
Basically, climate service companies provide data tailored to specific decision-makers: the mayor of a coastal city, say, or the CEO of an energy utility. However, the fast growth of these companies in recent years has created a marked shift in how we are using climate science that is actually available to all of us.
With higher temperatures, rising sea levels and greater extremes of weather, the question is not whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way - but why, where, when, and how they will retreat, reports Science Magazine.
In June, Digital Journal shone the spotlight on Pinkerton, a subsidiary of Securitas AB, a global security agency with home offices in Stockholm, Sweden. The company is now taking on climate chaos. The company specifically looks at climate change’s “threat multiplier."
Low-lying Pacific island nations such as the Marshall Islands are threatened by rising seas and stor...
Low-lying Pacific island nations such as the Marshall Islands are threatened by rising seas and storms that have become more powerful and regular due to climate change
This is based on the near certainty that as the temperature continues to creep up during the next 100 years, weather events will almost certainly provoke chaos. Pinkerton intends to focus on statistical and tactical approaches in determining a company's risks.
Freelance journalist Noah Gallagher Shannon notes that Pinkerton has gotten in on the ground floor, so to speak of these companies offering climate services. "They're responding, in many ways, to anxieties and fears and offering package services that can ameliorate those fears."
Reducing the big picture into a palatable package
Silicon Valley executive, Rich Sorkin, made the case for climate services in May to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment.
He argued that taking big-picture climate science produced by federal agencies and turning it into hyperlocal threat assessments was the best way to prepare companies, localities, and investors for a climate emergency.
Almost half of India -- an area home to more than 500 million people -- is facing drought-like condi...
Almost half of India -- an area home to more than 500 million people -- is facing drought-like conditions because of deficient pre-monsoon rainfall
Himanshu SHARMA, AFP
Sorkin was also blowing his own horn, saying his company, Jupiter Intelligence, is "uniquely suited" for the job. “We believe the federal government should defer to the private sector in this area," he said in his testimony.
Whether driven by disasters, market forces, or government intervention, people will continue to move from hazardous places as climate risks escalate. This raises an important question. Will people with fewer resources be able to afford a climate services company to help them make critical decisions?
Climate-related risks are expected to reduce the value of exposed properties, leading to a downward spiral of sale prices until someone is stuck, unable to sell because no one will want the property,
But Sorkin argues that companies, like his, are nimble and innovative where governments can be slow and cautious. "We’re years ahead of what the public sector is doing," he says. While that may be true Jupiter and Pinkerton, among others, they are still using the climate crisis as an opportunity to make a profit.
"[Commercially developed climate services] are often exclusive and only accessible by those involved and/or paying for that service," Marta Bruno Soares, a Met Office university academic fellow in the United Kingdom, wrote in an email. "What is critical at this point is to understand how the climate services produced … are being licensed and what accessibility is allowed to whom."
The point is this - Without a doubt, it will come to pass that in the not so distant future, only the wealthy and powerful will have better information and tools for protecting themselves from the devastation of climate change than the poor and vulnerable.
Even Sorkin agrees this sordid scenario is accurate. "We don’t really see underdeveloped communities or countries as profit generators for us," he says. Those types of projects, he says, only make financial sense with the government or NGOs as partners. So the whole issue of climate services companies needs to be discussed in-depth to ensure society as a whole is protected.