Investing for profit or people

How can investors make money in the time of climate change? That  was the topic of an MSN interview last October with Sarbjit Nahal,  an analyst with Merrill Lynch Global Research.

He recognized that extreme weather is the new economic reality, the “new operating environment” now for corporations and investors. There will be “increasing pressure on food security, water security and energy security, Demand across the three is set to increase by 30 to 50% over the next 20 years.”

Advisors are likely to promote investments in water, water management, water treatment, second generation biofuels from non-food crops, agricultural inputs like equipment, drought resistant seeds, fertilizer and crops.

Is this ghoulish, making money on the scarcity of the basic necessities of life, or is it responsible,- loaning savings to provide for basic needs?

Depends on how it is done.

Corporations can build facilities to desalinate seawater and recycle wastewater and increase supplies responsibly.  Or  they can take control of public water resources, charge people for water that they had used free for generations, and make money for a few shareholders, but leave many people in deeper poverty.  Agriculture can use quantities of fossil fuels and chemicals, squander water supplies, and allow soil loss, or it can reduce plowing and chemicals and preserve water and soil with alternative methods.

As we consider the challenge, providing food and water for 9 billion people in a warming world, it is clear that reducing carbon emissions should be part of every investment decision.

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