On Climate Risks, Money Talks

November 29, 2017

I’ve often pointed out that, as much as climate deniers want to skirt around the impacts of global change, insurers and financial services with real money on the table can’t afford to play games.

Wake up call for cities.

Washington Post:

Last week, Bloomberg reported that the Trump administration has asked for $12 billion to help communities fight climate-change-related flooding — a request that might seem surprising, given Trump’s stance that climate change is a hoax and his administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Of course, we don’t know whether Trump has actually come to agree with the scientific consensus that humans have caused a drastic change in Earth’s climate.


Coastal communities from Maine to California have been put on notice from one of the top credit rating agencies: Start preparing for climate change or risk losing access to cheap credit.

In a report to its clients Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service Inc. explained how it incorporates climate change into its credit ratings for state and local bonds. If cities and states don’t deal with risks from surging seas or intense storms, they are at greater risk of default.

“What we want people to realize is: If you’re exposed, we know that. We’re going to ask questions about what you’re doing to mitigate that exposure,” Lenny Jones, a managing director at Moody’s, said in a phone interview. “That’s taken into your credit ratings.”


In its report, Moody’s lists six indicators it uses “to assess the exposure and overall susceptibility of U.S. states to the physical effects of climate change.” They include the share of economic activity that comes from coastal areas, hurricane and extreme-weather damage as a share of the economy, and the share of homes in a flood plain.

Based on those overall risks, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi are among the states most at risk from climate change. Moody’s didn’t identify which cities or municipalities were most exposed.

Bond rating agencies such as Moody’s are important both for bond issuers and buyers, as they assign ratings that are used to judge the risk of default. The greater the risk, the higher the interest rate municipalities pay.

Bloomberg News reported in May that towns and counties were able to secure AAA ratings despite their risks of flooding and other destruction from storms, which are likely to be more frequent and intense because of climate change. If repeated storms and floods are likely to send property values — and tax revenue — sinking while spending on sea walls, storm drains or flood-resistant buildings goes up, investors say bond buyers should be warned.




One Response to “On Climate Risks, Money Talks”

  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    Insurance and financial services companies are taking a big hit from the growing number of catastrophic climate events. Increasingly they are coming down on the opposite side from fossil fuel companies on the climate denial question. Who will win out? I think there’s no questions the banks and financial services industry are far more powerful than Big Oil and Big Coal.

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