Newsletter: Wildfires, Storms and Their Impacts on Credit Risk

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we discuss the costs of climate hazards, share updates on Moody's ESG and highlight recent developments in climate risk regulation.

In Focus: The Current Reality of the
Climate Crisis

Devastating Human & Economic Costs of Wildfires

As cities on the West Coast take turns with the worst air quality in the world, and cope with evacuations and loss of life and property from record-breaking wildfires, there is increasing evidence about the longer-term implications of these devastating events. After several years of catastrophic fires in California, exacerbated by hot and dry conditions driven by climate change, homes in exposed areas are likely to decline in value, which in turn can increase mortgage default rate, with severe market implications.

Likewise, as the COVID-19 pandemic limits firefighting resources and makes evacuations particularly challenging, new research continues to emerge about the devastating health impacts of wildfire smoke. For example, "Researchers from the University of Tasmania identified 417 extra deaths that occurred during 19 weeks of smoky air, and reported 3,100 more hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiac ailments and 1,300 extra emergency room visits for asthma" during Australia's bushfires last year.

This is not just a current concern in the U.S., but rather wildfire potential is increasing  globally, and regions such as Brazil and Portugal are also enduring fires. Four Twenty Seven's recent analysis on global wildfire potential assesses how conditions will become more conducive to wildfires in regions around the world.
Read Wildfire Analysis

Dire Records Foreshadow Worsening Extremes

As wildfires ravage the west, Hurricane Sally began to hit southeastern Mississippi and the western Florida Panhandle on Tuesday. The slow-moving storm is expected to continue to drop rain and lead to heavy wind as it moves to shore on Wednesday. This is the 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season and the earliest S-named storm on record. Several more hurricanes have already formed in the Atlantic and these back-to-back storms present significant challenges; diminishing the window for search and rescue, increasing the duration of flooding and power outages and exacerbating COVID-19 challenges. Sea level rise driven by climate change worsens storm surge risk during hurricanes and warmer oceans can fuel stronger storms.

This comes as this year's first seven months were the second hottest on record and in the Northern Hemisphere July was the hottest on record, beating the previous record set just last year. This is increasingly evident in the Arctic, where satellite imagery shows that the region's largest remaining ice shelf lost a 110 square km portion and where Bering Sea ice was at a record low during 2018 and 2019. This affects ecosystems and Indigenous communities and contributes to feedback loops of warming in the region when reflective ice is replaced by dark water. Meanwhile, in Antarctica two glaciers that are already contributing to around 5% of global sea level rise were recently found to be less stable than previously understood.

Global Ports Exposed to Floods, Sea Level Rise

Sea ports handle 80% of global goods, so disruptions have significant wide-reaching consequences. This recent Economist article leverages Four Twenty Seven's data to explore risk exposure of about 340 of the world's largest ports. The analysis found that 55% of global trade goes through ports that are highly exposed to at least one hazard, such as floods, sea level rise, storms and wildfires and that 8% of trade passes through ports highly exposed to at least three hazards. This points to a need for risk assessment and resilience investment at ports, which requires capacity-building for port managers and an increase in adaptation finance.
Four Twenty Seven at Moody's:
Integration in Research and Ratings

Moody's Launches Comprehensive ESG Solutions Group

This week Moody’s Corporation announced the formation of an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Solutions Group to serve the growing global demand for ESG insights. The group leverages Moody’s data and expertise across ESG, climate risk, and sustainable finance, and aligns with Moody's Investors Service and Moody's Analytics to deliver a comprehensive, integrated suite of ESG customer solutions.

The ESG Solutions Group includes Four Twenty Seven and Vigeo Eiris, a global pioneer in ESG assessments, data and tools, and sustainable finance. Together, Moody's and its affiliates develop tools and analytics that identify, quantify and report on the impact of ESG and climate-related risks and opportunities. ESG and climate risk considerations are already integrated into credit ratings and research offered by Moody’s Investors Service (see below), and will be integrated into a range of Moody’s Analytics risk management solutions, research, data and analytics platforms, including stress testing solutions and climate-adjusted credit risk analytics for corporates, sovereigns and real estate.

Moody's Investors Service Announces Inclusion of Four Twenty Seven's Climate Risk Data in US CMBS and CRE CLOs

Reflecting the growing materiality of climate events for real estate, Moody's Investors Service now considers climate risk data and analytics from Four Twenty Seven in its research and ratings process for US commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and commercial real estate collateralized loan obligations (CRE CLOs). Presale reports include physical climate risk tables for the properties backing the loans in CMBS and CRE CLO transactions, including their forward-looking risk to floods, heat stress, hurricanes & typhoons, sea level rise, water stress and wildfires. 

Moody’s: U.S. Nuclear Operators Exposed to Physical Climate Risks

Physical climate hazards affect the operations and costs of nuclear plants due to their water needs and reliance on critical equipment. In its report, Nuclear Operators Face Growing Climate Risk but Resiliency Investments Mitigate Impact, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore the exposure of nuclear power plants to climate hazards, including heat stress, water stress, flooding and hurricanes. The analysis found that nuclear plant operators face physical and economic risks due to extreme events driven by climate change, and operators and owners will have to consider these risks and explore increased resilience options, as they approach license expiration and renewal processes between 2030 and 2050.
Developments in Climate Risk
Regulation & Assessment

U.S. CFTC Releases Report on Climate Risk

Last week the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission released a report highlighting the economic risks of climate change and emphasizing the need for the financial system to address these risks. The first such report to be issued by a U.S. government entity, it covers both physical and transition climate risks and calls for a nationwide price on carbon. However, this comes two weeks after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission released updated disclosure requirements that don't include climate change.

UK Releases Consultation on Mandating TCFD Disclosure

The UK's Department for Work and Pensions released a public consultation on a proposal to mandate climate risk disclosure. The policy would require pension funds of at least £5 billion to assess and disclosure their climate risks and opportunities under several scenarios by October 2021 and would also apply to funds of at least £1 billion in 2022. Respond by October 7th.
Meanwhile, yesterday, New Zealand announced that it would mandate TCFD disclosure on a comply or explain basis by 2023.

Charting a New Climate: UNEP FI TCFD Banking Pilot Phase II Report

Last week the UNEP Finance Initiative released a report outlining phase II of its pilot project working with global banks to understand their approaches to assessing physical climate risks and opportunities and the tools and data that could best support these processes. It discusses climate risk vulnerability by sector, includes an exploration between the connection between loan performance and climate risk exposure and reviews several data providers, including Four Twenty Seven and our ongoing collaborations with Moody's Analytics.
Moody's ESG Summit: Climate Scenarios

Join Us During Climate Week NYC for a Half Day on Climate Risk

Hear from industry leaders on the latest market developments in climate change and discover new approaches to leveraging climate data and financial indicators to understand how physical and transition risks translate into credit risks. The session will include keynote presentations by Nick Anderson of IASM, Jane Ambachtsheer of BNP Paribas Asset Management and Sean Kidney of the Climate Bonds Initiative. The latter session will feature experts from Moody's, Four Twenty Seven and Vigeo Eiris, discussing new approaches to modeling climate risk and its financial impacts.

This event is hosted by Moody's in partnership with the Climate Bonds Initiative during Climate Week New York City. The session is on September 24th beginning at 9:15am EST.
Register for Free

Moody's Analytics' Launches ESG Risk Assessment Courses

Moody's Analytics' upcoming courses on ESG risk assessment include introductions to climate, environmental and social risks and their connection to credit analysis and portfolio management. These virtual, instructor-led courses will include case studies and discussions on how to assess and manage ESG risks. Topics include ESG KPIs, the Sustainable Development Goals, CO2 scope, climate risk analysis, proxy voting, climate risk disclosure and upcoming regulation.

Choose from three upcoming sessions, with options for time zones in the U.S., Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions and review the full course outline.
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Director, Sales - Jackie Willis

Four Twenty Seven welcomes Jackie Willis as Director, Sales in New York. Jackie leads Four Twenty Seven’s business development and growth strategy in the eastern United States. Jackie has spent the majority of her career in analytical and portfolio management roles in corporate and municipal finance, in the securities and banking industries at institutions such as Prudential Capital Management, TIAA-CREF, TD and Wachovia (now Wells Fargo). Most recently, she served as a Solution Specialist covering the commercial and industrial (C&I) and commercial real estate (CRE) credit risk models for Moody’s Analytics.

Join the team! 

Find open positions on our Careers page and visit Vigeo Eiris' and Moody's Careers pages for more opportunities in climate change and ESG.
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates, including links to events not yet available:

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Copyright © 2020 Four Twenty Seven, All rights reserved.
Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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Moody’s: U.S. Nuclear Operators Exposed to Physical Climate Risks

Increasing physical climate hazards affect the operations and costs of nuclear plants due to their water needs and reliance on critical equipment. In its report, Nuclear Operators Face Growing Climate Risk but Resiliency Investments Mitigate Impact, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore the exposure of nuclear power plants to climate hazards, including heat stress, water stress, flooding and hurricanes.

The analysis found that nuclear power plants are vulnerable to increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions such as flooding and storm surge, due to their need for water cooling which means many plants are adjacent to large bodies of water. Technology and equipment required for safe plant operation are susceptible to damage and nuclear plants along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are particularly exposed to floods from sea level rise.

Clustered in the Midwest and eastern part of the U.S., market-based plants face less risk of hurricanes or sea level rise than regulated/cost-based plants. However, they face increased heat stress and water stress which can reduce plants’ cooling capacity. The credit impact for market-based plants can be more significant than the regulated plants that are more easily able to make-up costs through rate recovery programs.

Nuclear plant operators face physical and economic risks due to extreme events driven by climate change, and operators and owners will have to consider these risks and explore increased resilience options, as they approach license expiration and renewal processes between 2030 and 2050.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our report on Assessing Global Wildfire Potential.

Panel Recording: Electric Vehicles, Green Public Travel

This Responsible Investor Digifest panel features a discussion on the time frame for adoption of evolving electric vehicle technology, the improvements of green mass transit, how this affects carbon transition risk and the investment impacts and credit rating implications of the transport revolution.

Speakers

  • James Leaton, Vice President and Senior Credit Officer of Moody’s discusses the future of mobility and its cross-sector credit implications.
  • William Todts, Executive Director of Transport and Environment, highlights prominent issues to consider post-COVID-19 in the transport space.
  • Joy Williams, Senior Advisor of Mantle 314, shares investor and analyst perspectives on navigating resilience.
  • Moderator: Daniel Brooksbank, Head of Strategic Content, Responsible Investor

Newsletter: Will There be a Green Recovery?

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we discuss the potential for a green recovery, highlight ways in which asset owners can leverage Four Twenty Seven's Physical Climate Risk Application and share recent and upcoming webinars.

In Focus: Will There be a Green Recovery?

Governments Include Climate Measures in Recovery Efforts

As many EU leaders commit to pursuing Europe's Green deal alongside recovery efforts, already approved measures in European countries also mandate that corporations consider climate goals during their use of relief funds. As part of its green recovery programs Germany invited over 400 listed companies to participate in a research project on how these firms are aligned with the EU Taxonomy, currently focused on climate mitigation and adaptation activities.

Meanwhile, Canada requires that large corporations commit to filing TCFD-aligned climate risk disclosures to receive specific bailouts. China's Politburo Standing Committee has endorsed new infrastructure spending of $1.4 trillion over five years for several low-carbon technologies such as electric vehicle charging, high-speed rail and others. However, the details and implementation are still unclear, with provincial governments having significant control, and many still in favor of traditional energy.

Low interest rates do make this a particularly good time for governments to invest in resilience and green infrastructure, with substantial return on investment over time. Though in the U.S. there is less indication that stimulus efforts will include significant measures to support a green recovery, with any current action coming scattered from some states. However, if Biden is elected in November the situation may change in the U.S. Biden's appointment of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as co-chair of his climate task force could signal an intent to favor green jobs to help the economy recover.

Moody's Webinar: COVID-19 and Climate Change

During last week's webinar Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, joined Rahul Gosh, SVP, Credit Research & Strategy at Moody's, to discuss what organizations can learn from the pandemic to help prevent and prepare for climate change. Emilie discussed the impact on emissions, government responses and how these events can help companies understand the implications of carbon transition risk. Register for the webinar to watch the replay.
How Can Asset Owners Manage
Climate Risk?

Use Case - Climate Data for Risk Management in Real Asset Portfolios

As regulatory pressure to assess and report climate risks picks up, and physical climate hazards increasingly result in financial damage, asset owners face the daunting challenge of leveraging climate data for financial decision-making. Real estate, infrastructure, agriculture, timber and other real assets have long been an integral component of an asset owner’s portfolio due to their returns and the diversification they offer to the overall fund. However, many real assets are highly vulnerable to physical climate risks. These risks manifest in direct and indirect ways, including increased costs, reduced revenues and decreased asset value.

Evaluating an asset’s exposure to physical climate hazards is challenging, yet also an essential first step in managing climate risks. Four Twenty Seven’s Physical Climate Risk Application allows investors to assess exposure to floods, sea level rise, hurricanes & typhoons, heat stress and water stress at the asset and portfolio levels. Asset owners leverage hazard exposure scores to identify regional and sectoral trends as well as specific hotspots. Flexible viewing options and digestible data provide insight for portfolio risk assessments and due diligence processes. This new case study explores how, armed with climate risk data at decision-relevant scales, asset owners can begin to manage their risk. 
 
Read the Case Study
Regulatory Updates

Bank of England Postpones Climate Stress Tests

Earlier this month the Bank of England and the Prudential Regulatory Authority postponed its climate-related stress tests until at least mid-2021 to allow banks and insurers to focus on COVID-19 recovery efforts. The announcement emphasized the ambitious scope of the stress tests and the hope that the delay will allow firms to invest sufficient resources in the exercise when the time comes.

European Central Bank Publishes Guidance on Climate Risk Disclosure

Yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB) published guidance asking banks to disclose their climate-related risks and integrate these risks into their risk management processes. Compliance will be expected when the guidelines are finalized at the end of the year. The ECB has solicited feedback through a public consultation open until September 25.

Update to the EU Non-financial Reporting Directive

The European Commission is soliciting feedback on its non-financial reporting directive as part of its efforts to improve oversight of non-financial reporting in alignment with its Green Deal and a global call for a new approach to regulating non-financial disclosure. Provide feedback by June 11.

European Commission Consultation on Climate Adaptation

As part of its Green Deal the European Commission has launched a climate adaptation strategy to encourage eco-friendly investments and build resilience. It is refining the initiative and soliciting feedback through a public consultation. Respond by June 30.
Four Twenty Seven Shortlisted in Waters Ranking 2020

Vote for Four Twenty Seven as Best Alternative Data Provider

Four Twenty Seven is honored to be short-listed in the Best Alternative Data Provider category in the 2020 Waters Rankings.
This readers' choice award recognizes the capital markets' leading technologies and providers. We'd be grateful for your vote! You can vote here before May 29. 
Webinars on Integrating Climate Risk into Financial Decision Making

IIF Webinar Recording: Quantifying the Impacts of Climate Change

This Institute of International Finance webinar (IIF) features Emilie Mazzacurati, Founder & CEO of Four Twenty Seven, and Jing Zhang, Managing Director, Global Head of Quantitative Research at Moody’s, as they provide an overview of Moody’s climate risk solutions on the financial impacts of climate change. Watch now.

AllianceBernstein Webinar: Incorporating Climate Change into Investment Research

Please join us for a discussion about how the investment value chain is incorporating climate change into decision-making. Sara Rosner and David Wheeler, of AllianceBernstein, will discuss their collaboration with Columbia University on climate change and highlight the climate theme in their sustainable portfolios. Martina Macpherson, of Moody’s, will provide an overview of the current market environment and Moody's ESG and climate efforts, and Emilie Mazzacurati will present a deep dive into climate risk analytics. This webinar is next Wednesday, May 27 at 2pm BST / 9am EST / 6am PST. Register here.
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

UK Sales Director - Ben Boukhobza

Four Twenty Seven welcomes Ben as UK Sales Director. Ben leads Four Twenty Seven’s business development and growth strategy in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Ben leverages ten years of experience across various roles within the Commercial Group at Moody’s Investors Service (MIS). Most recently Ben led the EMEA Sales Support team, having previously held roles ranging from sales and account management to operations and technology.

Join the team! Four Twenty Seven is Hiring

There are several opportunities to join Four Twenty Seven's dynamic team. See the open positions below and visit our Careers page for more information.
  • Project Manager with excellent leadership skills and proven experience coordinating activities across teams of different disciplines within research, content and technology
  • Regional Sales Director (North America) with extensive experience selling and supporting data products and services for large commercial, financial and government institutions
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates, including registration links to webinars not yet available:

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Copyright © 2020 Four Twenty Seven, All rights reserved.
Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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How Can Asset Owners Manage Climate Risk?

Introduction: Why Climate Risk Matters for Asset Owners

In the world where quarterly corporate reporting makes it feel like financial markets are ruled by short-termism, asset owners stand out in contrast, managing their portfolios with horizons in the decades and even longer. With trillions in assets under management and the long-term well-being of their beneficiaries and other stakeholders as their goal, asset owners’ risk management practices must be robust.  This includes the consideration of factors beyond traditional financial metrics. While their long horizon allows asset owners to withstand short-term volatility, their portfolios may be exposed to higher levels of other risks, including those posed by a changing climate, which is not necessarily accounted for in asset prices.

Additionally, regulatory actions like the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, growing global support of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and groups like the Network for Greening the Financial System, whose members include 42 central banks and supervisors, are pushing investors of all stripes to take physical climate risks into account, warning of dire systemic consequences if climate risks continue to go unpriced.

With climate risk moving from the fringes of finance to center stage, the challenge is to translate climate models and climate data into actionable intelligence for financial decision-making. Climate models are complex, incorporating information from many disciplines of earth science, and their outputs are unwieldy. However, when transformed into indicators at appropriate scales and timeframes, climate data provides essential forward-looking information for financial decision-makers.

Assessing Exposure to Inform Risk Management

Evaluating an asset’s exposure to physical climate hazards is challenging, yet also an essential first step in managing climate risks. Four Twenty Seven’s Physical Climate Risk Application (Application) allows investors to assess exposure to floods, sea level rise, hurricanes & typhoons, heat stress and water stress at the asset and portfolio levels. Asset owners leverage hazard exposure scores to identify regional and sectoral trends as well as specific hotspots. Flexible viewing options and digestible data provide insight for portfolio risk assessments and due diligence processes. Armed with climate risk data at decision-relevant scales, asset owners can begin to manage their risk.

Climate Data for Portfolio Management

Real estate, infrastructure, agriculture, timber and other real assets have long been an integral component of an asset owner’s portfolio due to their returns and the diversification they offer to the overall fund. However, many real assets are highly vulnerable to physical climate risks. These risks manifest in direct and indirect ways, including increased costs, reduced revenues, and decreased asset value.

Asset owners use Four Twenty Seven’s Application to evaluate forward-looking physical climate risk exposure. For example, the portfolio-specific summary table in Figure 1 provides a snapshot of exposure and serves as the starting point for the analysis of physical climate risks.  In this portfolio, hurricanes & typhoons, earthquakes, heat stress and water stress are the most prevalent hazards.

While asset owners frequently emphasize the hazards they view as most financially material—for instance floods, hurricanes, and sea level rise—heat stress and water stress can also have material financial impacts. For instance, a major heat wave across Europe in the summer of 2019 demonstrated how increasing temperatures can cause business disruptions and raise operating costs. Absent retrofits to address climate risks in European real estate, the total increase in energy bills for commercial buildings could potentially cost $300 billion (£457 billion) by 2050. Water stress, another potentially overlooked risk, can threaten the long-term operations of assets like thermal power plants that rely on large amounts of water for cooling. For example, Moody’s found that 11 major U.S. utilities representing over $31 billion in rate base have extreme risk to water stress, which has already caused some power utilities to retire capital-intensive generation facilities early.

In addition to providing an entry point for further analysis, metrics in the summary table are useful for risk reporting. As reporting requirements develop, outputs from the Physical Climate Risk Application will empower asset owners to effectively describe asset exposure, communicate how risks are being managed, and characterize their portfolios’ overall climate risk and resilience strategies.

Asset owners can also identify exposure hotspots, explore sectoral trends, and dive deeper into the exposure of individual assets. Figure 2 shows the same portfolio ranked by highest flood risk score. Floods can raise costs, cause business disruption, and decrease asset values.

Using the data in Figure 2, asset owners can consider shortening their holding periods for assets with the highest levels of exposure, ensure that they have appropriate insurance coverage, and evaluate if coverage or premium prices may rise in the future. As the climate changes, insurers’ risk tolerances may also reach their limits and they may seek to exit markets. It is thus essential for asset owners to monitor the evolving landscape. Beyond evaluating potential changes to insurance, asset owners can also use this data as an entry point for engagement with a building manager, to better understand the site’s flood history and investigate if the asset has flood defenses.

Institutional investors understand that, over the typical commercial real estate hold period of seven to ten years, the next buyer of their building is likely to be concerned by climate risk as well. The Application equips asset owners with the exposure data they need to make sure their portfolios are resilient to climate risks and continue to provide the returns they need and expect from the asset class.

Climate Data for Due Diligence

Beyond analyzing portfolios of existing holdings, the application’s real-time scoring allows asset owners to quickly incorporate physical climate analysis into their due diligence processes for new acquisitions. In addition to providing easily digestible, high-level screening results, granular climate data allows clients to continue to invest, for example, in valuable coastal markets with known exposure. Figure 3 shows exposure of nine facilities in Tokyo, where the combination of storm surge and sea level rise could cause $1 trillion (100 trillion yen) in damages in a 1-in-100 year storm. Because the sea level rise (and flood) data featured in the Application is at a scale of 90 x 90 meters, investors do not need to eliminate entire markets from their investment strategies. Rather than exiting a profitable market, asset owners can use the Four Twenty Seven Physical Climate Risk Application to selectively invest in assets with lower exposure.

Asset owners often use Four Twenty Seven data to set their own internal thresholds for further due diligence. Using the detailed site information, as shown in Figure 4, as well as the downloadable scorecard, analysts can quickly understand which hazards to investigate further.

Some investors require further due diligence for any assets that receive “High” or “Red Flag” scores. Deal teams may be tasked to investigate asset-specific features that would make it more resilient to specific climate hazards, such as freeboard above base flood elevation, onsite power generators, or water efficiency measures.

Conclusion

Real assets, whose time horizon of returns aligns well with the investment goals of asset owners, are exposed to physical hazards, which will continue to become more frequent and severe. Exploring asset-level climate hazard exposure is the first step to analyzing and ultimately managing physical climate risk. As regulation around climate risk rapidly evolves, mandates to monitor and report these risks will also expand. Equipped with a detailed understanding of their portfolio holdings’ exposure, asset owners are empowered to make better-informed investment and risk management decisions, ultimately enhancing the resilience of their portfolios to physical climate risk.

Download this case study.

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Four Twenty Seven offers on-demand physical climate risk scoring for real assets and other climate risk datasets for investors to assess their risk across asset classes. Learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s data or reach out to schedule a demo.

The Compounding Challenges of Climate Hazards and COVID-19

April 22, 2020 – Four Twenty Seven Analysis.  The devastating human health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbated by climate hazards, which threaten communities around the world. This analysis explores exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and wildfires in U.S. municipalities alongside the impacts of COVID-19 on the same regions. It discusses the compounding challenges for economies, infrastructure and human health and the importance of preparing for these overlapping disasters.

Introduction: Climate Preparedness Takes on New Meaning

Last week in the Southern U.S., residents and policy-makers weighed the risks of high winds and flooding alongside the risks of spreading COVID-19, as many evacuated to storm shelters, and 750,000 people lost power across ten states from Texas to West Virginia. Meanwhile that same week 50,000 people in Connecticut lose power because of a storm, with restoration efforts complicated by COVID-19 precautions. The threat of climate-driven extreme weather events takes on new meaning when standard responses such as evacuating to shelters conflict with guidelines for preventing the spread of the disease. The pandemic’s impacts have been compared to Hurricane Katrina hitting all 50 states. FEMA, which is leading the nation’s response, typically only battles disasters in a few states at once.

To ensure the safety of residents, many are typically urged to evacuate ahead of hurricanes and wildfires. However, crowded evacuation centers are prime conditions for diseases to spread. Authorities in several states are actively exploring the best responses to this challenge, considering options for increasing the capacity of evacuation centers, taking temperatures before admitting evacuees and booking blocks of hotel rooms as a last resort.

Hazards such as heat waves and wildfires pose human health risks that will contribute to already overwhelmed healthcare systems. Further, many communities rely on cooling centers and visit public spaces such as shopping malls to seek relief during summer months. Measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 include the closure of facilities such as libraries and malls that typically serve as cooling centers. During a time when residents are encouraged to stay in or near their own homes, a heat wave would pose new danger. However, measures to improve preparedness, such as ensuring that hospitals have back-up power generators, improving availability of virtual healthcare and seeking alternative sources of personal protective equipment, will help communities prepare for the impacts of climate hazards as well as the pandemic.

The economic consequences of the pandemic also exacerbate the challenges presented by climate hazards for cities and residents. For those individuals who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19-related closures, decreased income may make it difficult to acquire needed emergency supplies or pay to relocate to a safe haven. Local governments already reaching deep into their coffers and straining existing resources, may have trouble allocating emergency personnel and resources to evacuate residents and to rebuild after a disaster.

This analysis explores the regions of the U.S. that are particularly exposed to the climate hazards of floods, heat stress, hurricanes and wildfires and how this exposure may exacerbate existing challenges due to COVID-19.

Extreme Rainfall and Flooding

Devastating flooding last year disrupted lives, threatened livelihoods and contributed to 19 million acres of cropland going unplanted. Seventy percent of those acres were in the Midwest, which was sodden for months. Communities are bracing for new floods this year which are expected to be severe, though not as devastating as last year’s floods. Counties in the Midwest are among the most exposed to increasing extreme precipitation due to climate change in the next several decades (Figure 1), where these floods are likely to become a regular occurrence.

Figure 1. Exposure to extreme rainfall by county, with red representing the most exposed counties and dark green representing the least exposed. Source: Four Twenty Seven.

This year, inundation would exacerbate the existing challenges of containing COVID-19, while COVID-19 containment precautions would, in turn, make flood response more challenging. Midwestern states such as Michigan, Illinois and Indiana are among states with the highest number of COVID-19 cases relative to their populations. While less densely populated communities have fewer cases to date, many Midwestern counties such as Cook County in Illinois and Franklin and Hamilton Counties, in Ohio already have a significant number of COVID-19 cases. Likewise, smaller towns typically have fewer financial resources and fewer staff dedicated to emergency relief.

The economies of many Midwestern communities depend upon agricultural and manufacturing industries, which require manual labor and the physical presence of the employees. Some manufacturing facilities reopened to produce personal protective equipment, and farms and grocery stores are both considered essential. However, these industries are at heightened risk of disruption from employees falling ill, as seen at several meatpacking facilities across the country. Floods can exacerbate these challenges, inundating roadways, manufacturing facilities, farms, and even grocery stores, preventing healthy staff from getting to and from their place of employment and disrupting the movement of goods. These impacts can also threaten food security if they disrupt food supply chains.

Heat Waves

Figure 2. Exposure to heat stress by county, with red representing the most exposed counties and dark green representing the least exposed. Source: Four Twenty Seven.

NOAA predicts above-average temperatures for much of the country through July, with no regions expecting below-average temperatures. Exposure to extreme heat is concentrated in Missouri and western Illinois, fanning out across the Midwest and South and including several areas that have had high numbers of COVID-19 cases to date (Figure 2). For example, the metropolitan areas surrounding Chicago and Detroit have both been hard hit by COVID-19 and face moderate exposure to heat stress. The Southeast corner of Florida faces high numbers of COVID-19 impacts as well as high heat stress and a looming hurricane season.

It is currently unclear how warmer temperatures will affect the spread of the virus. However, heat waves hinder worker productivity and can lead to safety concerns for outdoor workers, such as farmers. In addition to their human health impacts, heat waves also lead to higher peak energy demand as use of air conditioning surges. If governments and businesses alike continue to require or encourage their employees to work from home, reliance on air conditioning and power will likely be higher this year than in typical summer months. Resulting power outages can disrupt business continuity, particularly with operations dispersed across employees’ homes.

Hurricanes

Figure 3. Exposure to hurricanes by county, with red representing the most exposed counties and dark green representing the least exposed. Source: Four Twenty Seven.

Climate change is contributing to more frequent intense hurricanes and more severe storms are expected this season compared to the average season. States along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean are highly exposed to hurricanes (Figure 3), and several of these states, such as Louisiana and Florida, also have among the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases to date.

Local governments that depend upon sales tax are likely to feel the most immediate fiscal impacts from COVID-19, while those that rely more on property tax may feel longer term impacts influenced by foreclosures. In Florida, sales tax was responsible for 77% of the state’s general revenue in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which suggests that it will face the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 over the next several months, corresponding with the hurricane season, when funds may be most needed. Other states, such as Louisiana, have extended their tax filing date indefinitely, which will delay tax income. Regions that depend on tourism, such as the Florida Keys, will be going into hurricane season with fewer fiscal resources than usual this year. A lack of fiscal resources will challenge preparedness efforts and emergency response to hurricanes.

Wildfires

As climate change contributes to more severe droughts and extreme heat events, wildfire season in the western U.S. has worsened over the past several years. California, Washington and Colorado are among those states most exposed to wildfires, and they are also among those states with the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases to date.

While the spring is usually spent preparing for wildfire season, these preparations have been hindered this year. Annual efforts to remove brush have been postponed, while hiring has been delayed and annual trainings have been canceled. Fire agencies are going into this year’s season understaffed, with many firefighters already sick or quarantined. They are also wary of the dangerous conditions of base camps, where firefighters sleep in close quarters on the front lines.

The economic impacts of COVID-19 on employment and incomes will exacerbate the losses caused by wildfires and will likely lead to higher numbers of residents facing tough questions around whether or not to leave an area if they lose their homes. The resulting emigration or delayed rebuilding will in turn reduce local government revenues.

Residents in fire-prone areas increasingly wear N95 masks to protect themselves from wildfire smoke. However, these masks are in short supply and authorities have directed that masks should be saved for medical personnel. If shortages persist into this year’s wildfire season, communities could face greater long-term respiratory health impacts due to wildfire smoke.

Conclusion

As COVID-19 continues to spread and its timeline remains unknown, each region of the country faces exposure to climate hazards which will complicate containment efforts. However, in a time when local jurisdictions and individuals are paying increased attention to disaster preparedness there is an opportunity to strategically prepare for climate hazards and invest in resilience that supports responses to any disaster. Hurricanes, wildfires, floods and heat waves are inevitable in our changing world, and the more proactive resilience-building that occurs, the better positioned communities will be to minimize the loss of lives and livelihoods.

Climate Change: An Economic Risk for Canadian Municipalities

Introduction

The planet has just finished its hottest decade on record, leaving municipalities and businesses wondering how best to prepare for the future. As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of both extreme weather events like storms and heat waves, and chronic stresses like drought and sea level rise, the past is no longer an accurate prediction of the present.

While Canada’s latitude and geography makes it less exposed to widespread threats such as heat stress and hurricanes, its exposure to water stress and floods, alongside its economic dependency on water-heavy industries such as extraction, refining and manufacturing, does present significant risks. From striving to keep their residents safe, to supporting regional businesses, maintaining economic prosperity and minimizing costs, there are many reasons that municipal leaders need to understand and prepare for climate impacts.

This article outlines how climate risk presents economic risks to municipalities, as well as the investors with assets in the jurisdictions, and describes case studies of economic risk exposure in Canadian cities.

Why it Matters

Climate change poses economic risks to municipalities by impacting key companies, reducing the tax base, and affecting the budget. When companies that make up significant portions of a municipality’s economy — by way of revenue, taxes and employment —are disrupted by climate change, this has negative implications for the municipality. If these events happen repeatedly, it’s likely that jobs and, potentially the population, will decline, reducing the municipality’s revenue from taxes.

For example, low snowfall and a record dry summer in 2013 and 2014 led to reduced hydropower generation in Canada’s Northwest Territories, with implications for businesses with high power demands such as manufacturing and mining. These industries make up significant portions of Canada’s economy and an increase in water stress is likely to have enduring impacts.

Extreme weather events also lead to increased costs for municipalities in the form of emergency relief and rebuilding. For example, in Spring 2019 thousands were evacuated during flooding in Eastern Canada due to high snow melt combined with heavy rainfall, with costs expected to be in the hundreds of millions. At the time there was relatively low overland flood insurance coverage, so there were significant uninsured costs. These events also disrupt transit infrastructure, with implications for commutes and regional business operations.

Increasing expenditures on emergency relief can have implications for municipalities’ other budget items, debt reserves and ultimately their ability to repay loans. Likewise, persistent regional disruptions can have material impacts on businesses with key assets in the area.

Read the full article at Public Sector Digest.

Newsletter: The Economic Costs of Wildfires

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments on climate risk and resilience. This month we feature an analysis of the economic risks of wildfires, highlight a Moody's report on climate risk of US utilities and share recent action by central banks.

In Focus: Impacts of Australia's Bushfires

427 Analysis - What California's Wildfires May Foreshadow in Australia

As Australia’s bushfires rage on, questions arise on the long-term impacts on human health, biodiversity and the economy. Four Twenty Seven's newest analysis highlights lessons learned from the recovery from recent wildfires in California and how they may apply in Australia. While immediate economic impacts include emergency relief bills, business interruptions, costly loss of goods and reduction in tourism, the long-term impacts vary based on municipalities’ financial resources, economic make-up and preparedness.

The analysis discusses wide-ranging outcomes in real estate markets, ranging from Santa Rosa, CA's increasing housing costs and mini economic boom after the 2017 fires to Paradise, CA's transformation from a town of 26,000 to a town of 2,000 and nearby Chico's associated 20% population grown and real estate boom due to fire evacuees.

A municipality's ability to rebound after a fire is largely determined by insurance penetration, percent of housing stock lost and whether or not there was long-term emigration from the area. However, cities not themselves touched by flames are also affected, from evacuees to toxic smoke. Preparing for this new normal is challenging, with many considerations to balance. California's costly "Public Safety Power Shutoffs" in the Bay Area last fall highlight the progress that still needs to be made in developing effective preventative measures for wildfires. 
Read the Analysis
Utilities Exposed to Increasing Climate Risk

Moody's Investors Service Analysis - US Regulated Electric Utilities Face Varied Exposure to Climate Hazards

Moody's new analysis leverages Four Twenty Seven's physical climate risk data to explore the exposure of regulated electric utilities to climate hazards, finding that there is varying exposure to climate risk which may be mitigated by adaptation. Changing temperature and humidity trends can lead to drastic changes in energy demand, while higher temperatures can reduce production capacity. These hazards are particularly prevalent in the Midwest and in southern Florida. Water stress is typically credit-negative for electric utilities which depend on water for cooling. Utilities in California and the Colorado River region are particularly exposed to water stress. The report highlights the utilities most exposed to these and other hazards, discusses the implications for their credit and emphasizes the importance of resilience investments to mitigate these risks.
New Warnings on the Material Risks of Climate Change

Financial Actors and Corporate Leaders Urged to Take Climate Seriously

The World Economic Forum for the first time identified climate-related risks as the top five most likely business risks, and also cited these risks among the most impactful for 2020. Climate change was a key topic at the annual meeting of business leaders in Davos last week, underscoring the urgent need to prepare for its impacts. Meanwhile, the CEO of the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, wrote to CEOs emphasizing the systemic threat posed by climate change and urging corporations to show they are prepared. Climate risk will be enormously disruptive to markets, with short-term price corrections and long-term reallocation of value. Better transparency will ensure risk is priced accurately, and will motivate investments in adaptation and resilience at the corporate and municipal level.

Climate Risk as a Credit Risk

While physical climate risks are expected to occur on a longer time frame than many credit maturities, recent extreme weather events have made banks and other financial actors increasingly aware of the need to factor physical climate risks into decision-making. In their article, "The Changing Climate of Credit Risk Management,"  Four Twenty Seven's Chief Development Officer, Frank Freitas and Moody's Head of Portfolio and Balance Sheet Research, Amnon Levy, also highlight that "as a rule, more than half a firm’s value can be attributed to cash flows beyond 20 or 30 years." This underscores the materiality of climate risks that become increasingly prominent in the next several years.
Central Banks Move on Climate Risk Analysis

Climate Change - The Green Swan

"Traditional backward-looking risk assessments and existing climate-economic models cannot anticipate accurately enough the form that climate-related risks will take. These include what we call 'green swan' risks: potentially extremely financially disruptive events that could be behind the next systemic financial crisis." The Bank for International Settlements in collaboration with the Banque de France, released a new book on climate change, financial stability & the role of central banks.

Bank of England Consultation Paper on Climate Risk Scenarios

The Bank of England announced plans to integrate transition and physical climate risk into its Biennial Exploratory Scenario exercise in 2021. Building on the climate risk stress test for insurers released last year, this exercise will apply to both banks and insurers in 2021. The Bank welcomes feedback on its approach by March 18, 2020.

The French Central Bank's Climate Risk Stress Tests

Earlier this month the Banque de France announced that it will release scenarios for climate risk stress tests for its banks and insurers in March and aggregated results will be shared in December. Governor François Villeroy de Galhau emphasized the goal of the stress tests is to identify the resilience of France's financial sector while also improving climate risk assessments.
Webinar: Climate Risk in Real Estate

Moody's Analytics REIS Network Webinar: Feb. 4 at 2pm EST. 

Join this live webinar to learn about the Moody’s REIS Network and Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data for real estate. The REIS Network is an ecosystem of connected applications joining extensive real estate data sets with investment and risk assessment workflows. 
During this webinar, FourTwenty Seven Senior Analyst, Lindsay Ross, will provide a demo of Four Twenty Seven’s on-demand physical climate risk application. Register here.
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Meet Controller, Yang Jing

Four Twenty Seven welcomes Yang as Controller. Yang implements efficient processes and policies in compliance with US and international accounting standards and Moody’s accounting policies. She is a Senior Vice President in Accounting for Moody’s, where she works with business leaders to ensure compliance with SEC and international accounting regulations while providing near real-time financial data to enable executive decision-making. 

Join the Team! Four Twenty Seven is Hiring

There are several opportunities to join Four Twenty Seven's dynamic team in offices across the U.S. and Europe. See the open positions below and visit our Careers page for more information.
  • Climate Risk Analyst with expertise in translating applied climate change science for a wide range of stakeholders
  • Regional Sales Directors (North America and United Kingdom), with extensive experience selling and supporting data products and services for large commercial, financial and government institutions
Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team at these events:

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Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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Moody’s: Utilities Exposed to Increasing Climate Risk

The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events and chronic stresses driven by climate change have particular implications for the utility sector. In it’s report, US Regulated Electric Utilities Face Varied Exposure to Climate Hazards, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore the exposure of regulated electric utilities to climate hazards, including heat stress, water stress, flooding and hurricanes.

The analysis found that heat stress will likely have the greatest impact on utilities in the Midwest and southern Florida, reducing power grids’ efficiency and increasing expenditures. The Western U.S., specifically the Rocky Mountain states and California, is the region most exposed to long-term water stress. Since many electric utilities depend on water for cooling, water stress is typically credit negative for utilities.

In other areas of the country utilities are exposed to  extreme rainfall and flooding, which are responsible for many power outages. However, regulation and flood insurance help to reduce the credit impacts of floods. Along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal areas, increasingly severe hurricanes and storm surges will threaten key infrastructure assets such as transmissions substations and power plants. While hurricanes can lead to substantial costs and disruptions for utilities, the states in these regions often have credit-supportive regulation, allowing utilities to recoup costs after these events.

Utility companies across the U.S. are exposed to a variety of physical climate risks that threaten to damage or destroy utility infrastructure, increase operating expenses and affect their credit. These risks, however, can be mitigated with resilience investments by utility companies and by regulation and adaptation in jurisdictions in which they operate.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our report on Assessing Exposure to Climate Risk in U.S. Municipalities.

Newsletter: Scenario Analysis for Physical Climate Risks

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments on climate risk and resilience. This month we feature a report on scenario analysis for physical climate risks, share technical elements of climate risk assessments and highlight new research on sea level rise.

In Focus: Scenario Analysis for
Physical Climate Risks

427 Report: Demystifying Scenario Analysis for Financial Stakeholders

Scenario analysis is an essential yet challenging component of understanding and preparing for the impacts of climate change on assets, markets and economies. Many climate impacts are already locked in to mid-century, so when focusing on the next few decades scenario analysis should focus on the scientific phenomenon driving uncertainty, rather than the climate policies which have a greater impact over the longer term. Four Twenty Seven's new report, Demystifying Climate Scenario Analysis for Financial Stakeholders, explores which impacts are already locked in, identifies how Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios fit into the conversation, and describes an approach to setting up scenario analysis for near-term physical climate risks.
 
Our atmosphere will continue to warm for many decades even if we stop emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow.  The oceans will continue to rise, heat waves will become more severe and droughts will intensify. For example, the most water stressed areas  are anticipated to experience reductions in dry season rainfall equivalent to the two decades surrounding the American dust bowl. This report outlines an approach called percentile-based analysis, which allows users to explore the range of potential outcomes based on climate model outputs within a single RCP.
 
Read the Report
Technical Drivers of
Climate Risk Assessments

Leveraging the Cloud for Rapid Climate Risk Assessments

"Providing location-specific risk assessments requires accessing and processing the best climate data available. Climate data poses processing challenges due to the raw file size of climate model outputs, where a single file can be hundreds of megabytes or more, and an entire dataset can be anywhere from tens of terabytes to multiple petabytes." Four Twenty Seven Senior Data Analyst, Colin Gannon, writes about leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) for data storage and processing.

The Next Generation of Climate Models

Forty-nine modeling organizations are working on the next generation of climate models, known as Coupled Model Intercomparison Projects, or CMIP 6. Some of these models have already been released, but others are still forthcoming. CMIP 6 explores a larger range of potential futures and released models tend to project more warming than previous climate models. Although CMIP 6 is behind schedule, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report plans to incorporate these updated models into its analysis. 
Sea Level Rise - What's at Stake?

Global Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise Worse than Previously Understood

Many global coastlines are lower than previously known, meaning that hundreds of millions more people than expected are vulnerable to sea level rise, according to recent research by non-profit Climate Central. Leveraging a new digital elevation model, Climate Central found that by mid-century "land currently home to 300 million people will fall below the elevation of an average annual coastal flood." While scientists continue to explore the timing and implications around ice sheet collapse, this new research provides improved understanding of global coastal elevations and the potential for dire impacts on economies and communities. 

The space industry is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. There is little redundancy built in to the industry and the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are both exposed to significant coastal flooding. "Complex 39A is estimated to face a 14% annual risk of flooding next year and it’s projected to flood at least once a year on average during the 2060s unless additional measures are taken to protect it according to Climate Central's analysis. By 2100, parts of the launch site could experience near monthly flooding." NASA is building a 17ft high sand dune to protect the launchpads from the rising ocean, but experts wonder if this is a meaningful solution. 
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Meet Senior Software Engineer, Alix Herrmann 

Four Twenty Seven welcomes Alix, who leverages over 25 years of experience in software engineering to expand Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk scoring capabilities. Previously, Alix developed big data analytics for financial market trading at Instinet. She also has experience building neural network compilers, developing DSP-oriented mathematical libraries and creating ground-based radar signal processing pipelines.

Join the Team! Four Twenty Seven is Hiring

There are several opportunities to join Four Twenty Seven's dynamic team in offices across the U.S. and Europe. See the open positions below and visit our Careers page for more information.
  • Climate Risk Analyst with expertise in translating applied climate change science for a wide range of stakeholders
  • Regional Sales Directors (North America and United Kingdom), with extensive experience selling and supporting data products and services for large commercial, financial and government institutions
  • Director of Financial Data Systems with significant experience in the development and management of financial data processing, storage and retrieval
Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team at these events:

  • Dec 4 - 5 – RI New York 2019, New York, NY: Stop by Four Twenty Seven's booth to meet the team and hear Global Director of Client Services, Yoon Kim, speak about climate risk stress tests. Senior Analyst, Lindsay Ross, and Editor, Natalie Ambrosio, will host Four Twenty Seven's booth.
  • Dec 10 – Sustainatopia, Sunnyvale, CA: Natalie Ambrosio will speak on integrating physical climate risk into investment strategies.
  • Dec 9 - 12 AGU Fall Meeting 2019, San Francisco, CA: Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, and Senior Data Analysts, Josh Turner and Colin Gannon, will attend.
  • Jan 6 - Jan 9NCSE 2020 Annual Conference, Washington, DC: Yoon Kim and Lindsay Ross will speak about cross-sector resilience-building and resilient infrastructure, respectively.
  • Jan 12 - Jan 16 2020 AMS Meeting, Boston, MA: Josh Turner will attend.
  • Jan 27 –  Cleantech Forum, San Francisco, CA: Natalie Ambrosio will speak.
  • Feb 10 - 12 – Americatalyst 2020: Entropy, Dallas, TX: Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, will speak.
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Copyright © 2019 Four Twenty Seven, All rights reserved.
Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

Our mailing address is:
Four Twenty Seven
2000 Hearst Ave
Ste 304
Berkeley, CA 94709