Pinkerton, the agency that has long provided private security guards and detectives for the rich and famous, is looking ahead. And what the Pinkertons see coming are climate disasters that could make some people desperate to find food and water, according to a feature story published this week as part of a special climate issue of the New York Times Magazine. In other words, a business opportunity.
A century ago, Pinkerton was best known for breaking labor strikes and renting private militias to wealthy industrialists. Today it is owned by a Swedish security company and bills itself as “the world’s leading provider of corporate risk management solutions.” Pinkerton regards climate change as a “natural disaster” along with risks such as floods, droughts, and wildfires. To help their clients survive these hazards, the Pinkertons offer a variety of services ranging from emergency planning to armed responses such as executive extraction and warehouse defense.
Pinkerton expects climate change will make the world a more conflict-ridden and dangerous place, one in which “tactical know-how will simply be more in demand than ever,” the Times reports. And few firms other than Pinkerton can “dispatch a helicopter full of armed guards to Guatemala in an afternoon.”
The climate work has already begun. Pinkerton’s senior vice president in charge of the Americas told the Times that his firm chartered half a dozen planes, equipped with food and armed escorts, across the Caribbean during the 2017 hurricane season. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria that year, the Pinkertons accompanied trucks in Puerto Rico to prevent a client’s cargo from being hijacked. Climate change has made intensely rainy (and extremely destructive) storms like Maria almost five times more likely to occur today than in the 1950s, according to a study published last month that analyzed rainfall from all 129 hurricanes that have hit Puerto Rico since 1956.
To demonstrate their capabilities, the Pinkertons took the author of the Times article, Noah Gallagher Shannon, to a firing range to shoot automatic weapons at human-shaped targets, and to a racetrack to practice evasive driving. “It was impossible to experience that,” he writes, “and not project it into a future in which, in the absence of true climate policy or mitigation, capital felt free to protect itself from outside risks—whatever form they may take.”