World Business

As the World Burns, Mike Pompeo Smells a Business Opportunity – Vanity Fair


Over the last several years, the Republican Party’s official position on climate change has evolved from denial to obfuscation to something potentially even more dangerous: a jaunty optimism that a warming planet and rising seas won’t be all that bad, really. “We will do the things necessary as the climate changes,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained in an interview with the Washington Times on Friday. “As for the risks associated with climate change, the climate’s been changing a long time.” Sure there will be changes as carbon dioxide fills the atmosphere, likely fueling violent storms and ocean acidification, accelerating deforestation and the extinction of species. But Pompeo assures us, “Societies reorganize; we move to different places; we develop technology and innovation.” Climate refugees, by definition, can always relocate.

“I was just in the Netherlands, all below sea level, right? Living a wonderful, thriving economic situation,” Pompeo continued. “The world will be successful. I’m convinced.”

According to a World Bank report last year, about 143 million people could be “forced to migrate within their own countries” if climate change continues at its current rate—some due to flooding along the world’s coasts, and others affected by heat. (If Europe’s migrant crisis already seems bad, predicts U.C. Berkeley professor Solomon Hsiang, it will only grow worse as the Middle East dries up.) But Pompeo, who received more than $1 million from the oil and gas industry throughout his political career, has a habit of looking at the bright side of global warming. Last month during the Arctic Council in Finland, Pompeo asked the international group to consider, perhaps, the economic benefits of global warming. “[The arctic] houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas, and an abundance of uranium, rare Earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore,” he enthused, imagining the business opportunities should all that ice melt. He also suggested, quite seriously, that the disappearance of continental glaciers could open up new trade routes between the West and Asia, turning a natural disaster unprecedented in human history into the “21st-century Suez and Panama Canals.”

Speaking to the Washington Times on Friday, Pompeo explained why he didn’t support the Paris Agreement, which President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2017. “We’ve seen America reduce its carbon footprint while the signatories, including China, haven’t done theirs,” he argued, ignoring recent estimates that carbon emissions have increased significantly since Trump took office and ordered the rollback of Obama-era emissions regulations. The New York Times estimates that the president has attempted to kill 83 environmental rules, although he has vowed to “promote clean air and clear water.”

Acknowledging that climate change is real may seem marginally better than climate denial. But Pompeo’s opportunistic view toward ecological catastrophe, paired with Trump’s general nihilism, may be even worse. Denialism, after all, is easier to critique. The administration’s own evolution on climate science, rather, has been to encourage humanity to buck up. As Pompeo explained, there may even be business opportunities along the way.

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