Who might win from global warming?
Leading scientists identify climate change effects. Which industries might gain, and which could take a hit?
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Climate scientists working on the United Nations' report on global warming say documented effects of rising temperatures include more plant- and tree-eating insects, shifting weather patterns, and the spread of disease-causing organisms in humans.
That could create opportunities for pharmaceutical, chemical, biotech and health care companies but would present serious challenges for paper, agriculture, furniture, energy and the overall economy.
Speaking on a conference call Thursday, three scientists involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change previewed some of the findings most likely contained in the final report on the effects of global warming, expected April 6.
"Our forests are under assault," said Paul Epstein, associate director for the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. "Throughout the world we're seeing more pests."
Warmer weather means insects like pine beetles and moths can move northward, while it also provides them a longer reproductive season, said Camille Parmesan, a biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
The crop- and tree-eating insects could be bad for any business that relies on trees or lumber, like paper or furniture companies, said Leslie Lowe, director of the Energy and Environment Program at Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
Lowe noted it's possible that the longer growing season, predicted in some places as a consequence of the rising temperatures, might offset the damage done by the bugs.
"In some places you might hit the jackpot and they will work well together, but in other places - you don't want to be there," she said.
Lowe added that biotech companies might benefit, as new varieties of plants may be needed to ward off the bugs, as could chemical companies making pesticides.
The scientists also said human pathogens like Lyme disease and malaria are covering greater parts of the globe.
Drug companies and hospitals could gain, said Lowe, although the overall public health system will most likely be taxed, and the economy may suffer from a loss of productivity.
Global warming's effects are expected to be most profound in areas of the world where the land and water resources are already marginal, such as large parts of Africa, the scientists said.
But they said everyone will be affected somehow, pointing to the energy industry in the United States and the disruptions already caused by massive storms in the Gulf of Mexico, heat-wave-induced blackouts and equipment sinking into the melting Arctic tundra.
"No nation is immune," said Epstein.