Climate Change May Threaten $2.5 Trillion in Assets
Trillions of dollars' worth of financial assets may be under threat from global warming's effects by 2100, climate economists warned on Monday. Continue reading →
Trillions of dollars' worth of financial assets may be under threat from global warming's effects by 2100, climate economists warned on Monday.
If warming reaches 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by 2100, investments worth some $2.5 trillion (2.2 trillion euros) may be in danger, a team reported.
This was equal to half the current estimated stock market value of fossil-fuel companies.
But even if the 2 C warming agreed by the world's nations in Paris last December is achieved, the value of assets at risk would be $1.7 trillion, they wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Climate change can destroy assets directly through sea-level rise for example, by depreciating their value, or by disrupting economic activities lower down the chain through drought or freak storms.
A lot of research has focused on the oil, coal and gas investments that will be lost if the world turns its back on fossil fuels in favor of sustainable energy in line with the 2 C target.
The new study attempts to break new ground with the first-ever estimate of a direct impact of climate change on the value of financial assets themselves.
The projections, using mathematical models, were based on an estimated value of $143.3 trillion for global non-bank financial assets in 2013, as determined by the Financial Stability Board watchdog, the team said.
At warming of 2.5 C, they wrote, some 1.8 percent of global financial assets could be at risk.
But this could rise to as much as $24 trillion in worst-case-scenario warming.
Lesser evil Scientists estimate we are on course for warming of about 4 C or more based on current greenhouse gas emission trends, or about 3 C if nations meet the emissions-curbing pledges they filed to back up the Paris climate agreement.
"When we take into account the financial impacts of efforts to cut emissions, we still find the expected value of financial assets is higher in a world that limits warming to 2 C," said co-author Simon Dietz of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.
"This means risk-neutral investors would choose to cut emissions, and risk-averse investors would be even more keen to do so."
Climate change should be an important issue for all long-term investors, such as pension funds, as well as financial regulators, added Dietz.
Sabine Fuss of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin said it was not the final word on the topic, but the study did demonstrate that climate risks to the financial system may be substantial.
"This undermines both the need for full disclosure so that climate risks can be assessed and portfolios adjusted accordingly, and the need for more research to develop comprehensive estimates of the risk of such losses," she wrote in a comment published by the same journal.
You've heard a lot about how human-driven climate change will lead to hotter temperatures, cause sea levels to rise and make storms more intense. But it's projected to have plenty of other unpleasant and even disastrous effects as well. Here are 10 of them. Scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to increased evaporation of the Great Lakes' water, and precipitation won't make up the difference. That means we're likely to see declines in water levels over the next century, and one study predicts they may drop as much as 8 feet.
Thanks to climate change, jumbo-sized ragweed plants will spew out more pollen for a longer, more miserable allergy season.
By altering the wild environment, climate change makes it easier for newly mutated microbes to jump between species, and it's likely that as a result, diseases will emerge and spread across the globe even more rapidly.
A recent Nature article reported that male Australian central bearded dragons have been growing female genitalia because of rising temperatures, a phenomenon that had not previously been observed in that species.
Rising sea levels are wiping out beaches all over the world already. Importing fresh sand and building them up again is only a temporary solution. To make matters worse, there's currently a sand shortage, due to demand from fracking, glass and cement making.
Bark beetles are eating old growth forests, because the winters aren't cold enough to kill them off. So more trees like this American Elm will die.
Warmer temperatures mean there will be more water vapor trapped in the atmosphere, leading to more lightning. A University of California-Berkeley study predicts that lightning strikes will increase by about 12 percent for every degree Celsius gained.
Wine grape harvests are being hurt. Regions that have historically supplied the world’s best wine will no longer be hospitable climates to grow wine grapes, according to research by the Environmental Defense Fund and others.
Coffee flavor depends upon really narrow conditions of temperature and moisture, and climate change is going to wreak havoc with that. Worse yet, as coffee growing regions become warmer, pests that couldn't survive in the past will ravage the crops. This is already being seen in Costa Rica, India and Ethiopia, which have experienced sharp declines in crop yields.
Scientists say that as ice sheets and glaciers melt, the weight that's removed from the Earth's crust changes the stresses upon volcanoes. That unloading effect can trigger eruptions.