Wack Wingers Say Woke is Weak, but Weather Woes Won’t Wait

March 29, 2023

Big Brouhaha over “ESG” policies at various companies and investment firms.
No doubt that by far the driver of this is fossil fuel interests concerned about future oriented investors pricing in impacts of climate change – and seeking to wedge so called “woke” issues into the conversation to stoke tribalism.
Nevertheless, smart investors are waking up to climate impacts, and risk exposure – and even if those plans are temporarily held up in the US, European countries are making it mandatory, so anyone that hopes to operate internationally is going to have to do what capitalists have always done, gauge risk and reward and proceed accordingly.


Ignoring climate change’s risk to business is like pretending you can’t catch fire when strolling through a burning building. One of America’s two major political parties wants us to ignore it anyway. But corporate America and its investors know they don’t have that luxury.

Fitch Ratings this week said it would review the impact of climate change on the creditworthiness of more than 1,600 companies. Nearly 20% of those companies could have their credit ratings cut as a result, according to an initial Fitch estimate. These companies will have to change the way they do business or potentially face higher borrowing costs. 

This follows BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest asset manager, vowing last week that it would keep pressing corporate boards for plans on handling climate risks, despite months of attacks from Republican politicians over such concerns.

GOP governors and lawmakers around the country have been trying to discourage companies and money managers from considering environmental, social and governance issues when making business and investment decisions. They have had some success in places like Florida and Texas, though their power to influence corporate policy may be limited to jawboning and depriving financiers of government dollars.

But President Joe Biden recently used his first veto to kill a congressional effort to make ESG investing more difficult. And the anti-ESG movement has lately gotten significant pushback in even some red states such as Kentucky and Wyoming. That’s partly because blocking ESG investments has been proven to hurt returnsand drive up costs to taxpayers, as my colleague Matt Winkler and others have written.

It also doesn’t help that the effects of climate change, at least — part of the “E” in “ESG” — have become increasingly difficult to ignore. They show up routinely in the droughts, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters that have been made more frequent and intense by a heating planet. Last year such catastrophes did more than $165 billionin damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Eighteen separate disasters each cost $1 billion or more. Only two other years — 2020 and 2021 — counted more disasters of that magnitude.  

Climate-proofing your operations and investments in the face of such a clear and growing risk is simply good business. There is no evidence that it has anything at all to do with an agenda to force the country to adopt a woke religion or some such nonsense. Even the fossil fuel industry, supposedly a prime beneficiary of anti-ESG actions, seems to get this. It devoted much of its recent CERAWeek confab to talking up its part in the green transition. These companies surely want to go on pumping oil and gas forever, but investors and consumers will only let them go so far. 

Most voters are also on board. A recent poll by Heatmap News found that two-thirds of Americans want action to fight climate change, including 61% of self-identified Republicans. 

Most GOP politicians probably grasp this, too. But the party apparently decided a while back that being anti-woke, which includes being anti-ESG, will help drive its base voters to the polls. It has persisted in this approach even after somewhat disappointing midterm elections and despite a poll showing most Americans actually see “wokeness” in a positive light. Corporate America keeps demonstrating it can’t afford to be so myopic. 

Below, my video describing initial moves by Black Rock that helped spark the debate.


3 Responses to “Wack Wingers Say Woke is Weak, but Weather Woes Won’t Wait”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Fitch Ratings this week said it would review the impact of climate change on the creditworthiness of more than 1,600 companies. Nearly 20% of those companies could have their credit ratings cut as a result….

    Just from the perspective of investing, being climate naive and being vulnerable to hacking are two ways most companies can be blindsided despite good profit forecasts.

    A third way, as in the case with Southwest, is for executives to boost share prices by the functionally empty practice of stock buybacks in lieu of keeping up with technology or the competition. (I was going to call it “short-sighted” but from the executives’ point of view it just makes them richer.)

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It’s 2023 and the politicians are still doing this crap at the behest of their FF paymasters (or as a holdover from stupid culture warring).

      At least the mainstream capitalists (in their own self-interest, of course) are acknowledging the reality reflected in the increasing coverage of weather extremes and disasters. It’s why a heat wave in London or wildfire smoke choking San Francisco can matter more than the millions left homeless by flooding in Pakistan.

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