Climate change poses a host of risks to the global economy. From ‘natural’ disasters causing property damage, to climate mitigation measures rendering fossil fuel assets unburnable, to potential impacts of climate change on agricultural production, energy, food, insurance, real estate, and other sectors, it’s clear that private sector companies and all kinds of investments stand to suffer significant losses as a consequence of climate change.
Yet few regulations exist to require these risks to be recognized on balance sheets, or disclosed to investors, unlike many other everyday risks that are subject to such disclosure and protection. A home built in a floodplain and destroyed in a flood, or at a wildland interface and destroyed by a wildfire, has not seen its cost of insurance go up to reflect the rising risk of another loss due to climate change. Pension funds have not been required to evaluate the risk of their investments in oil, gas, and coal companies losing value due to future restrictions on carbon emissions. And entities like the U.S. Federal Reserve have been free to continue lending to fossil fuel producers even as they warn about the damage that climate change is doing to the global economy.
Clearly, it is long past time to recognize the risk of climate change across all sectors of the economy. We must begin implementing ways of measuring those risks, testing portfolios for their risk tolerance, divesting public money from the fossil fuel sector, and start implementing economy-wide ways of pricing carbon emissions.
To that end, in 2019 the U. S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) formed the Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee, and tasked it with producing a report to consider what climate-related risks might be; examine whether adequate information about climate risks is available; identify any impediments to evaluating and managing climate-related financial and market risks; ask whether the market can do a better job of integrating climate-related scenarios and use them to stress-test investments; incorporate disclosures of climate risk into financial and market risk assessments and reporting; identify how risks can be managed and disclosed in order to protect the stability of the financial system; and ensure that information about climate-related financial and market risks are internalized into the market.
On September 9, 2020, that report was released. In this episode, we speak with the chairman of the subcommittee, Bob Litterman, founding partner and Risk Committee Chairman of Kepos Capital. Bob has had a decades-long career in risk management, and has been a champion of recognizing and integrating climate risk for many years. We’ll ask him about what the report says, why it’s important, and how its findings might be used to integrate awareness of climate risk into financial metrics and enterprise governance.