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Global Warming and Extreme Weather Investment Risks

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Sustainable Business In Association with Future Earth book series (PSSBAFE)

Abstract

Environmentally focused investors often consider climate risks (Porritt, The world in context: Beyond the business case for sustainable development. Cambridge: HRH The Prince of Wales’ Business and the Environment Programme, Cambridge Programme for Industry, 2001, Stern, Stern review executive summary. London: New Economics Foundation, 2006); however, potential liabilities for damages from extreme weather events due to emissions from carbon-intensive sectors present risks that may not be reflected in current share prices (Krosinsky, Robins, & Viederman, Evolutions in sustainable investing: Strategies, funds and thought leadership. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012). Given the devastation of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, it is worth asking: how close are we to some companies or sectors being held liable, at least partially, for their activities around emissions? The answer may be that this is closer than many expect. The evolving field of extreme weather event attribution serves as a good example of how new science can raise important thought-provoking questions regarding the appropriate actions of both investors and companies under a changing climate and answer them with increasing confidence.

In recent articles, Rayer and Millar (Investing in extreme weather conditions. Citywire Wealth Manager (429), 36, 2018a; Hurricanes hit company share prices. Citywire New Model Adviser (596), 18, 2018b; Physics World, 31(8), 17, 2018c) estimated that the top seven carbon-emitting publicly listed companies, under a hypothetical climate liability regime, might increasingly see around 1–2% losses on their market capitalisations (or share prices) from North Atlantic hurricane seasons. This chapter gives a comprehensive exposition of how that estimate was arrived at, as well as clarifying how it was quantified. Related aspects from a physical point of view are provided, with an associated general overview of the current state of the related science of climate change, alongside a focus on extreme weather events.

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Fig. 3.1
Fig. 3.2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions that originate from sources that are owned and controlled by a company, for example, fuel used in company vehicles. Scope 2 emissions are indirect, resulting from energy used by a company, including electricity, steam, heating and cooling. This could include, for example, electricity purchased by a company from an external supplier. Scope 3 emissions cover all indirect emissions arising due to company activities. Scope 3 emissions include upstream and downstream value chain emissions. Scope 3 emissions include those of suppliers and customers using companies’ products.

  2. 2.

    This assumes that the 9.5% contribution for the period 1988–2015 remains representative for the slightly longer 1988–2017 period.

  3. 3.

    If we denote the fossil fuel industry as emitting F tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2015, then F = 0.91G, where G was global industrial emissions. Further, F = 0.7A, where A was all anthropogenic emissions. Equating 0.91G = 0.7A, thus G = (0.7/0.91)A = 0.77A. So around 77% of anthropogenic emissions were industrial, meaning that 23% were non-industrial.

  4. 4.

    Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans in the battle of Asculum in 280 BC, but suffered such heavy losses that ultimately his campaign failed. Thus, he “won the battle, but lost the war”.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr Richard Millar of the University of Oxford for his involvement in the development of early versions of the material presented in the chapter as well as Dr Pete Walton of the University of Oxford for helping develop the contacts for this cross-disciplinary collaboration. They would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.

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Rayer, Q., Pfleiderer, P., Haustein, K. (2020). Global Warming and Extreme Weather Investment Risks. In: Walker, T., Gramlich, D., Bitar, M., Fardnia, P. (eds) Ecological, Societal, and Technological Risks and the Financial Sector . Palgrave Studies in Sustainable Business In Association with Future Earth. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-38858-4_3

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