LONDON, July 3 (UPI) -- Adapting to climate change could mean billions of dollars in business opportunities for British firms, the government said this week.
In its official National Adaptation Program released Monday, the British Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs makes the case that despite a host of negative aspects brought on by global warming, such as severe storms and flooding, it also presents lucrative business opportunities.
"As the world's climate changes, Britain's expertise in areas such as weather forecasting, flood modeling, infrastructure and insurance are already coming to the fore to prepare us for the kinds of events we might see more often," DEFRA Secretary Owen Paterson wrote in a foreword to the report.
"Indeed, the U.K. is already one of the global leaders in this industry of the future and this market is expected to grow by 5 percent or more year on year, supporting skilled jobs and the weather-resilience that saves money in the long term."
Economists, he said, "have estimated that, across Europe, every [$1.50] spent on increasing resilience now could yield [$6] in damages avoided."
Environmental groups, however, said Paterson's emphasis on profiting from global warming sends the wrong message at a time when the British government is planning for more natural gas-fired power plants and issuing licenses for shale gas exploration.
"Only this government could regard the impact of global warming as a business opportunity, with ministers now advising companies on how to turn a profit from something most people regard as a profound threat to our collective well-being," Jim Footner of Greenpeace U.K. said.
The government, he added, "should be creating the conditions that would make British industry a world-leading power in high-tech renewable energy technologies. Instead ministers are green-lighting a new fossil fuel era."
Britain, the report says, is facing more extreme weather events due to climate change, such as the severe flooding of 2012 and the drought experienced earlier last year. Such events "are likely to become more frequent and more severe in the coming decades, bringing potential disruption to the economy."
However, it added, "the government has also found that there are opportunities for some businesses who do take action."
"Proactive adaptation planning" is a $100 billion emerging global market in which Britain already has 21,000 employees producing goods and services worth $3.2 billion in 2010-11. Domestically, it will be growing by 7.1 percent per year by 2017-18, DEFRA estimated.
While touting the economic opportunity, the National Adaptation Program also took note of the risks to Britain should the rate of global warming be limited to 2 degrees Celsius over the 1990 baseline -- the goal of the United Nations-led effort to forge a new climate change treaty.
For instance, the cost of expected annual damage to residential properties alone from tidal and river flooding in England and Wales is projected to increase from the current $974 million to more than $1.7 billion by the 2020s, notwithstanding potential population increases.
Higher summer temperatures, meanwhile, pose risks to human health and will produce increased demand for energy for cooling. The urban heat island effect is predicted to push temperatures in cities even higher.