Racial Justice as a Cornerstone of Climate Justice

Introduction

Black communities and other people of color are disproportionately exposed to the impacts of climate change and also tend to have fewer financial and healthcare resources to prepare for and respond to these impacts. Adapting to climate change without an explicit focus on racial justice can further reinforce inequalities; hence, building systemic resilience to climate change must include investment in communities that are on the frontlines of climate impacts, including Black communities.

For the Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race & Equity, “racial equity means that race can’t be used to predict success, and we have successful systems and structure that work for all.” Equity means that different groups are provided with the resources they need to address their distinct challenges, acknowledging that these will not necessarily be equal. Thus, adaptation must include equity in every step of the process, from risk assessment and decision-making to planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Key elements of equitable adaptation include conducting vulnerability assessments that account for place-based vulnerabilities, integrating consideration of social and cultural value within budgeting decisions, involving frontline communities in the decision-making from the start, and investing in the resources and policies these communities need to thrive. While by no means exhaustive, this article highlights the importance of racial equity for several phases in the climate adaptation process and shares some emerging best practices.

Risk and Vulnerability Assessment

The first step in the climate adaptation process is identifying risk exposure and vulnerability. Climate risk is not based solely on exposure to climate hazards like floods and extreme heat, but also on vulnerability, driven by a community’s specific characteristics. Vulnerability is shaped by the sensitivity of a given population and its adaptive capacity. Thus, the impact of a climate hazard, such as a storm or drought, will depend upon the resources and sensitivities of exposed communities.

Adaptive capacity is multifaceted, including both tangible resources such as access to transportation, air conditioning and green spaces and intangible elements such as social capital. Effective risk and vulnerability assessments explore these characteristics of a community, to identify how risks may manifest, and serve as the foundation for determining what adaptation measures are needed. For example, members of low-income communities with low vehicle ownership and greater dependence on public transportation will be less likely to be able to evacuate during an extreme event, experience longer-term impacts if subway stations are flooded or damaged, and be more likely to face economic hardship if they cannot get to work or lose their jobs. For extreme heat, communities with more urban green spaces, widespread access to air conditioning, or access to public cooling centers such as libraries, are likely to be less vulnerable than communities in dense urban centers with little greenery and/or those without access to safe public cooling centers.

Social capital is built through regular interaction, shared values or culture, and human connections, which build trust and lead individuals to look out for one another. In some cases, high social capital has increased communities’ resilience, helping to counterbalance a lack of tangible resources. For example, during Chicago’s deadly 1995 heat wave, while Black communities were hit hardest, the Black community of Auburn Gresham stood out with lower death rates than Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods. The distinguishing factor was the way Auburn Gresham’s infrastructure was conducive to building social capital—its sidewalks and restaurants promoted opportunities to get to know each other and interact. Assessing the social elements of adaptive capacity in climate vulnerability assessments is critical to understanding a community’s needs and ensuring that adaptation efforts build on and leverage existing social capital.

Sensitivity refers to the characteristics of individuals and communities that affect how a climate hazard may impact them. For example, Black communities often have high sensitivity to climate hazards, due to preexisting health conditions, which are driven by disproportionate exposure to environmental toxins. Likewise, agricultural communities are particularly sensitive to water stress due to the water-intensive nature of agricultural activities, with those that lack financial resources and political influence likely to experience the greatest impacts. Engaging with a community to assess its exposure to physical climate hazards, the resources it has to respond, and its residents’ particular sensitivities lays the groundwork for equitable adaptation.

Budgeting

A climate risk assessment centered on concerns for social equity can inform an equitable planning and budgeting process. Traditional cost benefit analysis can undervalue the needs of low-income communities or communities of color, due to its emphasis on ensuring adaptation costs do not exceed  property values. While this approach is often used to determine the best locations for adaptation investment, it can perpetuate inequitable distribution of impacts and investment. For example, in Cedar Rapids, IA, a flood mitigation study found that a region on the Cedar River’s West Bank did not qualify for investments in flood barriers due to relatively low property values. However, hundreds of these homes were destroyed by flooding in 2008. Policy makers can integrate a consideration for equity and improve the longer-term return on investment by replacing the current cost benefit analysis to account for vulnerability and longer-term community impacts and savings, rather than only up-front economic impacts.

The distribution of disaster recovery funds will dictate the resources available for community rebuilding and, in many instances, Black communities do not receive the funds they need. For example, after Hurricane Harvey, Taylor Landing, TX received $1.3 million in recovery funds—about $60,000 per affected resident. Taylor Landing is a town of 228, which had a median household income of about $69,000 in 2017 and, according to the Census, had no Black residents. Meanwhile, nearby Port Arthur, a town of 54,000 residents, with a median household income of $32,000 and a population that was over a third Black, received $4.1 million from the same funding—about $84 per affected resident. This inequitable distribution of funds is due to an unrepresentative regional fund allocation system. The members of the council that distributes the funds disproportionately represent the region’s smaller, primarily white towns, rather than the region’s largest cities, including Port Arthur. Moreover, the Small Business Administration approves disaster loan applications from primarily white communities at almost twice the rate that it does for applications from majority Black communities. This discrepancy is largely because disaster loan applications are based on credit scores, which are typically lower for minority populations and are more likely to remain low if these communities lack the resources to recover. This exemplifies the need for Black communities most exposed to climate impacts to be represented in decisions about resource allocation to support climate resilience and for reconsidering financing structures.

Acknowledging that many Black communities face compounding challenges due to a historic lack of investment in their communities, investing in these communities, and reducing the loss and costs that come with repeated impacts are important steps in ending this cycle. This calls for a restructuring of federal disaster response funding processes, moving beyond rigid frameworks based on home value and including advisory committees composed of members of the frontline communities. Financial institutions also have an opportunity to increase the flow of financial capital to Black communities. Strategies can include building advisory offerings meant to foster financial literacy and savings, shifting to key performance indicators focused on client financial health rather than promoting indebtedness and creating new models to reach those typically excluded. For example, accepting proof of current employment instead of requiring credit history to allow individuals to begin building credit would help those typically unable to access capital begin to obtain financing. Building equity in budgeting and promoting equitable lending practices would play a role in breaking the cycle of disenfranchisement.

Integrating Equity into Adaptation

Maladaptation and the Need for Change

There are many different types of adaptation measures, including structural measures, land-use policies and capacity-building. The impacts and efficacy of any adaptation measure is highly context-dependent. One common point of failure is the exclusion of certain stakeholders or when planners, consultants, and policy-makers make their own judgements of what is important and may ignore important characteristics of the community. In this case, there is often high potential for maladaptation, or unintended consequences that end up perpetuating existing social inequities by increasing the exposure of those who are already on the frontline.

For example, levees and other flood barriers often worsen downstream flooding as they force the water through a narrower channel, so there is more volume to inundate surrounding areas that do not have flood protection. The cost benefit calculations discussed above drive these engineering decisions and lead to protection for more affluent communities while nearby low-income towns endure the consequences. Likewise, while increasing flood insurance premiums may help provide incentives to move from flood-prone areas, for those who cannot afford to leave it also leads to increased affordability challenges and potentially the decision to forgo flood insurance, compounding challenges when flooding does occur.

As governments begin to invest in adaptation measures, there is a risk of climate gentrification, or the pricing out of Black residents and low-income communities. For example, in Norfolk, VA, part of the sea level rise strategy is to demolish several public housing units, replacing them with mixed-income buildings and transforming the rest of this exposed area into a green space that can absorb floodwater. The city provides some assistance and vouchers for relocation, but the burden largely falls on the low-income residents. In some cases, their only options are to live farther away from the city center, paying more money for gas to commute to work and making the daily efforts of providing for their families even more challenging.

Many factors influence the efficacy of adaptation outcomes, including whether or not the adaptation is responsive to the community’s needs. For example, if a new cooling center is built, but residents lack transportation or feel uncomfortable meeting in public spaces with few amenities, the cooling center will do little good. Likewise, evacuating ahead of hurricanes saves lives and warning systems can help prompt more thorough evacuations. However, residents that are not informed about the importance of evacuations or those who do not trust public authorities are unlikely to heed evacuation warnings, particularly if evacuations are challenging due to resource and transportation constraints. The long history of racism and exclusionary government programs have weakened trust of public authorities in some communities. Creating adaptation strategies that are truly equitable and effective requires understanding the community’s needs and tailoring a climate response that can be fully embraced by the community at risk.

Changing Policies

Policy makers must start exploring alternatives to adaptation guidelines that perpetuate inequity, such as the Army Corps of Engineers’ sole use of property value metrics when assessing which communities get flood protection, or waterfront adaptation that leads to climate gentrification. Some cities including those in the Bay Area, Atlanta and Chicago have started developing Land Trusts to ensure that affordable housing is available in the long-term, even as areas increase in value. The Land Trusts permanently own the land, but allow low-income families to enter into long-term leases and to build equity on the homes. When the time comes to move, the family sells to another qualifying low-income family and a resale formula is used to determine the amount, providing profit for the family that is selling while keeping the home affordable for other low-income families. This is one example of ways that innovative policies can foster equity alongside climate adaptation.

Engagement and Representation

Community engagement should be integrated into all steps of the adaptation process. This engagement can be broken down into three forms: outreach, consultation and deliberation. Outreach is the one-way, information sharing that comes from informing the community about climate risks or adaptation efforts, and consultation involves soliciting community feedback on draft plans and decisions. While this is important, it is essential that community engagement doesn’t just occur in the middle or end of the process, but rather is a central component from the beginning. Having community members present during the decision-making process will help identify what the community really needs. Equitable representation of community members, in terms of demographics and socioeconomic status is essential.

Another important outcome of intentional community engagement is transparent, two-way trust-building. Understanding the language, scientific literacy and culture of a community helps to build trust, and ultimately, to reduce vulnerability as a result of more successful and inclusive adaptation efforts.

Building Upon Existing Capacity

As discussed above, social capital is an important component of resilience and shared culture is one element of social capital. It is often the case that strong bonds exist in communities of color based on shared culture. While many Black communities and other communities of color lack financial capital and, thus, often do not have financial resources to build resilience, their social capital provides a solid foundation from which to build equitable, cohesive adaptation plans. Funneling resources through existing networks such as local religious groups and community cultural centers helps bolster this social capital while also allowing the organizations most informed regarding a community’s needs and trusted by its population to lead adaptation.

One example of adaptation rooted in community engagement and trust building is Baltimore’s Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Help Each Other program centered around residents sharing their stories and discussing the impacts of climate change, while working with local experts to develop preparedness plans. It is important to meet communities where they are, framing adaptation efforts around ensuring that communities have the social resources needed to prepare for climate hazards and acknowledging the wealth of insight and experience the community has to provide.

Conclusion

Equitable climate adaptation involves identifying areas that are on the frontlines of climate change and what they need to prepare for climate impacts. It also involves considering the implications of policy and ensuring that a disproportionate burden is not placed on frontline communities. Investing in equitable adaptation is one essential tool for addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Black communities and other people of color. For too long, planning decisions have excluded communities of color, with long-term negative impacts. While more recent adaption efforts have sought to end this vicious cycle by creating a more inclusive environment for planning, communities of color still lack the political clout and funding to move projects forward. Opportunities to build partnerships with (or within) these communities, identify new funding and development models that directly address decades of exclusion, and reduce repeated loss by helping those most exposed confront climate change, must be embraced and advanced.

 

Racial Justice and Climate Change

Introduction

The relationship between race and climate change is too often ignored. The recent protests for racial justice and police reform call attention to the fact that racism is still deeply embedded in our institutions and public policies. In the United States, people of color are disproportionately affected by polluting industries and climate change. A long legacy of racist housing policy and weak environmental protections contribute to this disproportionate exposure, coupled with systemic issues related to public health, education and wealth.

As part of our commitment to help raise awareness of the nexus between racial equity and climate change, this article will provide a brief overview of environmental injustice issues in the U.S., as well as highlight the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Black communities and people of color.

Disclaimer: We are aware that the history of environmental justice in the U.S. is deep and complex, and this short piece cannot do justice to the complex web of issues and suffering imposed on minorities. We hope this blog post provides an entry point for identifying organizations and researchers with greater expertise and a long history of commitment to environmental justice.

Housing Discrimination and Environmental Injustice  

The disenfranchisement of Black communities and other people of color in the United States includes discrimination in terms of access to education, public transportation, recreation, employment, healthcare and housing. Environmental racism is just one manifestation of this oppression and is particularly evident in housing and development.

Black communities and other people of color have been relegated to neighborhoods that have greater exposure to environmental pollution and toxicity than primarily white neighborhoods. Housing and lending policies have historically limited options for Black communities and people of color and concentrated these communities in locations with higher exposure to environmental hazards. In the 1930s, federal housing policy actively and intentionally contributed to segregation, subsidizing development for middle to low-income white households and prohibiting people of color from purchasing those homes. Relegated to live only in certain areas, entire minority communities were then “redlined,” labeling home buyers’ mortgages as too risky to insure. “Threat of infiltration of negro[s]” and “Infiltration of: Negroes” were often listed as reasons for giving a community a low grade, and for deeming the community as “hazardous.”

In America, where homeownership is the single most important source of equity- and wealth-building, Black households have historically been shut out of higher-value neighborhoods and have been systematically prevented from benefiting from the upward mobility and financial resources that accompany homeownership. Factors like redlining, disenfranchisement and the operation of toxic facilities in Black neighborhoods means that homes in majority Black neighborhoods are valued at half the price of homes with non-Black residents. Lack of opportunity to build equity through home ownership is a key reason that African American wealth equals just 5% of white wealth in the U.S.

Furthermore, as of 2019 over 30 million Americans live in areas where water infrastructure has violated safety standards. For example, in rural and primarily Black Lowndes County, Alabama, only around 20% of the population has a sewer system—the others have pipes deploying raw sewage into their yards. Navajo Nation residents rely on water contaminated by uranium mining, and infections and cancer are rampant in these communities. Lack of access to safe water leads some residents to drive for hours to obtain safe water, which in turn hampers education and work efforts, further perpetuating inequities. There is a nationwide trend in lack of enforcement and regulation around safety standards for drinking water, and often low-income, Black, Indigenous and other people of color who lack political clout endure the most severe impacts. In 2017 the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the U.S. drinking-water infrastructure as a D, estimating a need for $1 trillion investment in the next 25 years to prevent further erosion of pipes.

After decades of discriminatory housing policies and inequitable development, Black communities are still disproportionately exposed to pollution and environmental toxins, leading to detrimental health impacts which are often compounded by lack of access to suitable healthcare. This disproportionate exposure has been well-documented since the 1980s when a nationwide study by The United Church of Christ Commission on Racial Justice found that race was the strongest determinant of the location of commercial hazardous waste sites. Nationally, “African Americans are 75 percent more likely than Caucasians to live in fence-line communities—those next to commercial facilities whose noise, odor, traffic or emissions directly affect the population.”

Disproportionate Exposure to Climate Impacts and Climate Justice

While climate justice has multiple dimensions, at its core it refers to the understanding that those who are least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences. Globally this manifests in developing countries experiencing the worst impacts of climate change, while their industrialized counterparts bear the responsibility for the carbon emissions responsible for worldwide climate impacts. From an intergenerational perspective, today’s younger generations are inheriting the consequences of older generations’ actions related to climate change, with Greta Thunberg a vocal advocate for generational justice.

Climate justice also manifests through racial inequity, in particular in the U.S., where the impacts of climate change will not be distributed evenly. While Black communities and other people of color bear the greatest health costs of industrial activity and of physical climate hazards, they also bear less responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions causing the climate crisis. While individuals within these communities can be highly resilient, confronting social and economic disparities daily, these communities also often lack the resources to adequately prepare for and respond to the health impacts of pollution and physical impacts of climate change.

Floods

Flooding in the United States disproportionately affects Black residents, as Black neighborhoods are often in low-lying floodplains, with impermeable surfaces and a lack of effective flood protection infrastructure. In many cases, nearby chemical sites, refineries and other industrial infrastructure are also located in flood zones, multiplying the risks of exposure to toxic chemicals during storms. While many middle-income white households face difficult decisions about whether to permanently leave their home in the floodplain, not everyone has the economic freedom to make such decisions. In many cases, Black residents and other people of color do not have access to the transportation or the savings to evacuate at a moment’s notice, let alone permanently relocate.

Storms

The overexposure of Black neighborhoods to flood risk, alongside the lack of resilience investment in these communities, also leads to disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of storms. During Hurricane Katrina, Black individuals were among those that were least likely to evacuate, with access to transportation being a key factor. The city’s four largest public housing buildings, primarily occupied by Black residents, were permanently closed after incurring storm damage. Four of the seven zip codes enduring the costliest flood damage due to Hurricane Katrina were at least 75% Black and the community most damaged by Hurricane Harvey was 49% nonwhite. This is a common trend across the nation.

These statistics, stem partially from a history of inequitable funding. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans, causing the most damage in New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward, which are primarily Black neighborhoods. This catalyzed investment in levees to protect New Orleans from flood waters, but these investments went primarily to predominantly White neighborhoods which were not as damaged and already had some flood protection infrastructure. This distribution of funds foreshadowed the unequal distribution of impacts when Katrina hit decades later.

Sea level rise

Global sea levels have risen by about eight inches over the past century, with the rate of rise increasing recently. In responding to sea level rise, jurisdictions tend to take one of two approaches: invest in adaptation measures to keep the water out, or abandon an area to the rising seas. Studies show that low-income minority neighborhoods are more likely to be abandoned while higher-income predominately white neighborhoods tend more often to be protected. One reason for this is decision-making that relies only on financial indicators. Resilience investments driven by cost benefit analysis focusing only on the property values, rather than looking at social and cultural characteristics of a community, further contribute to the inequitable impact of climate change.

Relatedly, as the risks of sea level rise become more evident there is an increased risk of “blue-lining” – a term used by Tulane Professor Jesse Keenan, to express its connection to redlining. Many Black and low-income populations that did not receive investment in sound sewage and drainage systems due to redlining experience the worst impacts of flooding today. As banks and investors learn about exposure to floods and sea level rise, they are increasingly hesitant to offer funding to these neighborhoods. Yet without investment, communities are unable to improve their infrastructure and build resilience, further reinforcing the cycle of racial injustice.

Research in Miami-Dade County, Florida found a positive relationship between price appreciation and elevation in most study cities. This shift can potentially lead to ‘climate gentrification’—another term coined by Prof. Keenan, as minority populations migrate towards more exposed areas. For example, in Miami’s higher elevation, traditionally minority neighborhoods such as Liberty City and Little Haiti, rising property values are making homes unaffordable for residents, reflecting the new preference for high elevation. This combination of being priced out of higher elevation neighborhoods and property values decreasing in more exposed coastal areas may further contribute to the cycle of disproportionate exposure to sea level rise among Black populations and other minority residents.

Water Stress

According to the World Resources Institute’s data, 20% of the U.S. currently experiences “high” or “extremely high” water stress, and this number is expected to increase significantly by midcentury. Population growth will further threaten drinking water supplies, and the impacts will be uneven. In 2014 the water table in Fairmead, an unincorporated town in California’s Central Valley with majority Black and Latino residents, dried up and the citizens had to rely on donations and emergency relief for drinking water. Many of Fairmead’s residents are farmers, relying on water for their livelihoods as well as for human consumption, and water for irrigation comes from private wells that are only a few hundred feet deep. While these farmers cannot afford to drill deeper wells, nearby corporate farms can afford to drill wells up to 1,000 feet deep and are thus less affected by the dwindling water table. Climate change will exacerbate existing inequities around water access, particularly for Black and Indigenous communities.

Extreme Heat

Extreme heat kills more residents annually in the U.S. than any other climate hazard. Temperatures can vary by as much as 20ºF between neighborhoods due to the urban heat island effect. The hottest neighborhoods tend to be disproportionately covered in concrete and home to low-income and Black residents. Research shows that these urban development trends are connected to the history of racist housing policies. Residents in low-income and Black communities are also less likely than middle-income and white populations to have well-insulated homes, access to consistent air-conditioning or cool, safe public gathering spaces. Meanwhile, the asthma, heart disease and other chronic illnesses precipitated by exposure to air pollution, increases the health risks of extreme heat.

Conclusion

Due to a history of segregation and systematic economic oppression Black communities are consistently relegated to areas most exposed to flooding and extreme heat, while at the same time lacking resilience investment and access to educational, health and transportation resources to effectively prepare for and respond to disasters. Investing in equitable climate change adaptation is one facet of pursuing climate justice. Equitable adaptation requires involving community members in every step of decision-making and reviewing adaptation options based on the exposure and vulnerability of the community in question, as well as the potential for downstream impacts on others. We discuss this subject in our blog on equity as a cornerstone of adaptation.

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.

Newsletter: Climate Resilience in the Age of COVID

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we discuss the overlapping challenges of COVID-19 and climate hazards, share consultations on climate risk for financial stakeholders and highlight developments in climate risk at Moody's.

The Compounding Challenges of Climate Hazards and COVID-19

Climate Preparedness Takes on New Meaning - Four Twenty Seven Analysis 

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 lost power because of a storm, with restoration efforts complicated by COVID-19. The devastating human health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbated by climate hazards, which threaten communities around the world. Four Twenty Seven's new analysis explores exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and wildfires in U.S. municipalities alongside the impacts of COVID-19 on the same regions.

Our analysis explores exposure to extreme rainfall in the Midwest and the particular vulnerability of essential services such as manufacturers of personal protective equipment and farmers, to disruptions due to floods. It discusses the human health implications of extreme heat and its particular threat to business continuity from power disruptions when business operations are dispersed across employees' homes. States like Louisiana and Florida are addressing COVID-19 while preparing for a busy hurricane season. Likewise, typical wildfire preparations have been delayed and canceled due to the pandemic, leaving states like California, Washington and Colorado particularly vulnerable to this year's wildfires.
Read the Analysis

Further reading on climate change and COVID-19:

Public Consultations on Climate Change in the Financial Sector
While the world is sheltering from COVID-19, regulators are moving forward with their goals to address climate change. There are currently several open consultations to gather industry feedback on new standards and reporting requirements. 
 

EU Draft Minimum Standards for Climate Benchmarks

The European Commission is seeking feedback on draft standards for its "EU Climate Transition" and "EU Paris-aligned" benchmarks. The goals of the benchmarks are to increase transparency, help direct capital toward climate-friendly investments and prevent green-washing. Provide feedback by May 6.
 

FCA Proposal for Updated Climate Risk Disclosure

The UK Financial Conduct Authority is seeking feedback on its proposals to mandate climate risk disclosure for all commercial companies with premium listings. This requirement would build upon the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures recommendations and use a comply or explain approach. Respond by June 5.
 

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.
 

Consultation on Renewed EU Sustainable Finance Strategy

The European Commission is soliciting public feedback on its updated sustainable finance strategy, building upon its 2018 Action Plan for Sustainable Finance. This strategy aims to integrate climate change and other environmental considerations into the financial system, supporting the European Green Deal. The deadline to respond was extended to July 15.
ESG and Climate at Moody's

Moody's Launches New ESG & Climate Risk Website

Moody's new ESG and Climate Risk Hub collates resources on climate risk and ESG from Moody's and its affiliates, including Four Twenty Seven. The platform includes solutions and insights to help investors, lenders and other stakeholders integrate climate risk into decision-making.

ESG Factors Frequently Cited as Material Credit Considerations

Out of almost 8,000 Moody's private sector ratings actions in 2019, about a third referenced material ESG considerations. Moody's Investor Service's new report shares findings on how ESG considerations are factored into ratings actions.
Climate Risk News

New High Temperature Records Set

Last month was the hottest month on record for the world's oceans and the oceans' five hottest years have been within the last ten years. Warm oceans are connected to many climate hazards, ranging from hurricanes to wildfires. If the Atlantic remains warm during hurricane season, it's expected to contribute to stronger storms this year. Meanwhile, warm seas can pull rain from inland, contributing to drought associated with wildfire conditions. This occurred last year in Australia when the Indian Ocean was particularly warm off of Africa's coast.

Meanwhile, this year's first quarter had the second warmest air temperatures on record globally. NOAA projects there is a high chance that 2020 will become the warmest year on record.

Climate Resources for the Financial Sector

These ongoing scientific findings on the dire rate of climate change, including new temperature records and updated sea level rise projections, have significant financial implications. The Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) launched a new Global
Sustainability and Climate Risk Resource Center to help communicate these risks. This platform introduces climate change for financial stakeholders and provides resources to help risk managers understand climate risks.
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Senior Climate Data Analyst - John Naviaux

Four Twenty Seven welcomes John as Senior Climate Data Analyst. John performs stochastic modeling of climate and weather data to advance Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk analytics. Previously, John worked on topics ranging from transportation economics in Los Angeles to particle physics at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. John monitored arctic mercury pollution in Norway as part of a Fulbright Fellowship, and received his Ph.D. at Caltech for his research on the ocean’s response to climate change.

Four Twenty Seven is Here to Serve our Clients

As COVID-19 has led to widespread disruption in businesses and personal lives, Four Twenty Seven remains committed to ensuring the safety of our staff and clients while also continuing to provide the same data, analysis and client support that we are known for. Our business remains open globally, with teams in the U.S., Paris, London and Tokyo working remotely. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us via email or on our cell phones. 
Upcoming Events

An Update on Postponements and Cancellations:

  • Apr 28 – Afire Rising Leaders Summit, New York, NY: Chief Revenue Officer, Lisa Stanton, will speak - CANCELED
  • May 12 at 10am EDT – IIF ESG Webinar Series: Quantifying the Impact of Climate Change: Founder & CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati will speak.
  • May 18 – Sciences Po Award Dinner, New York, NY: Founder and CEO, Emilie Mazzacurati, will speak. - POSTPONED
  • Jun 8 - 12 – University of Notre Dame CARE Conference, Heron Island, AU: Director of Communications, Natalie Ambrosio, will speak. - CANCELED
  • Jun 9 - 10 – Responsible Investor London 2020, London, UK: Members of the Four Twenty Seven team will attend and host a booth. - PENDING
  • Sept 2-3 – Risk Americas Convention, New York, NY: Members of the Four Twenty Seven team will host a booth and present on climate risk.
  • Sept 9 The Future of ESG Data 2020, London, UK: Senior Analyst, Léonie Chatain, will speak.
  • Sept 15 - 16 – Responsible Investor Tokyo 2020, Tokyo, Japan: Members of the Four Twenty Seven team will present on risk disclosure and host a booth. 
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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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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.

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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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.
 

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









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









Demystifying Climate Scenario Analysis for Financial Stakeholders

December 4, 2019 – 427 REPORT. Scenario analysis is an essential yet challenging component of understanding and preparing for the impacts of climate change on assets, markets and economies. When focusing on the short term, the warming and related impacts we have already committed to calls for scenarios that are decoupled from economic and policy activities and instead focus on the impacts that are already locked in. This report 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.

Download the report.

As the effects of climate change increasingly threaten financial stability, investors and regulators are seeking to understand what impacts lie ahead, and calling for an increase in physical climate risk assessment and disclosure in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). To assess the scale of financial risk posed by physical climate change it is important to quantify risks under different climate scenarios. How will changes in extreme weather patterns, longer droughts and rising seas differ under various scenarios? Answering these questions through scenario analysis helps uncover the range of risks, allowing investors to identify assets and markets that are more likely to become stranded over time and to begin developing forward-looking resilience strategies. However, science-driven, decision-useful scenario analysis poses many challenges for businesses and financial stakeholders today, due to complex feedback loops, varying timescales, and multiple interacting factors that ultimately determine how global climate change manifests.

 

Figure 2. Distribution of daily extreme temperature changes in 2030-2040, expressed as a percent change, relative to a baseline of 1975-2005 under RCP 8.5. This map shows statistically downscaled global climate models averaged together, for this time frame and scenario. NASA Earth Exchange Global Daily Downscaled Projections statistically downscales climate model outputs to a ~25 kilometer resolution (see full details here) White areas are excluded because they lack potential for significant economic activity.

This new report, Demystifying Climate Scenario Analysis for Financial Stakeholders, explores which physical impacts are already locked in, identifies how Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios apply, and describes an approach to setting up scenario analysis for near-term physical climate risks. Scenario analysis is often approached from the perspective of transition risk, where policy developments and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets are the key drivers of risk pathways over the near-term, in the next 10 to 30 years. Physical risk, however, requires a different approach.  Impacts over the coming decades are largely locked in, making the emissions scenarios less relevant. Unlike transition risk, GHG emission pathways play a minimal role in the behavior of the near-term climate and GHG emission pathways only begin to meaningfully influence global temperatures near mid-century. The uncertainty in physical climate risks in the near-term is driven by uncertainty in physical processes, rather than in policy decisions.

For organizations looking to construct physical climate risk scenarios for risk management and strategy purposes, it is critical to understand the scientific phenomena driving our plausible climate futures. 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. This offers a flexible, data-driven approach, suitable for portfolio-level screenings, reporting, and in some cases, direct engagement with asset managers.

Key Takeaways:

  • Quantifying climate risks under different scenarios is a key element in understanding how physical climate risks pose financial risks.
  • Scenario analysis is often approached from the perspective of transition risk, where policy developments and greenhouse gas emission targets are the key drivers of risk pathways in the next 10 to 30 years. However, physical climate impacts over the coming decades are largely locked in, so physical risk requires a different approach.
  • Even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, many physical climate impacts, such as increasing temperatures, more severe droughts, and rising sea levels, would already be locked in because of the time carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and the time it takes the atmosphere to respond.
  • The uncertainty in how physical climate risks may manifest in the next few decades is driven by model uncertainty, which should therefore be the focus of scenario analysis for physical climate risks in the near-term.
  • Percentile-based analysis offers a flexible, data-driven approach, suitable for portfolio-level screenings, reporting, and in some cases, direct engagement with asset managers.

Download the report.

Download the press release.

 

Newsletter: How will climate affect Europe’s real estate & U.S. retail?

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments on climate risk and resilience. This month we feature analysis on climate risk in European real estate, Moody's research on credit quality and heat stress and the first climate resilience bond.

In Focus: Real Estate Climate Risk in Europe

Four Twenty Seven Analysis - Real Estate Climate Risks: How Will Europe be Impacted?

From this summer's record-breaking heat waves to storm-surge induced flooding, Europe is increasingly experiencing the impacts of climate change. Extreme events and chronic stresses have substantial impacts on real estate, by damaging individual buildings, decreasing their value and potentially leading to unusable assets. These asset-level impacts also have wider market implications.

Our latest analysis assesses the exposure of retail sites and offices across Europe to floods, sea level rise and heat stress. We find that 19% of assessed retail spaces and 16% of offices in Europe are exposed to floods and/or sea level rise, with floods presenting the highest risk for both types of asset. The analysis identifies the cities with the largest percent of facilities exposed to floods and sea level rise, and discusses the implications this exposure has for business continuity and real estate markets across the continent. 
Read the Analysis
Credit Quality in U.S. Governments Exposed to Heat Stress

Moody's Investors Service Analysis - Growing Exposure to Heat Stress Mitigated by Economic and Fiscal Strengths

Moody's new analysis overlays Four Twenty Seven's data on exposure to heat stress in U.S. governments with information on outstanding debt and credit quality, finding that 21% of outstanding debt they rate is exposed to high or very high heat stress. This exposure is concentrated in the central U.S. and Florida. The Southeast has the most debt exposed to heat stress, but this debt tends to be from larger, well-resources governments with diverse economies, which improves governments' resilience to extreme events. Bloomberg covers the report, emphasizing the potential implications of heat stress for Midwest bond issuers. Register for free to read the analysis:
Read the Report
New Principles Support Integration of Resilience into Bond Markets

CBI Releases Climate Resilience Principles 

Last Week the Climate Bond Initiative released Climate Resilience Principles, integrating forward-looking climate risk assessment and resilience considerations into bond markets. The guidance document is meant to inform investors', governments' and banks' reviews of how projects and assets contribute to a climate-resilient economy. The principles will be integrated into the Climate Bonds Certification of green bonds, signaling a valuable step toward the consistent use of resilience standards for debt projects. Four Twenty Seven is proud to have contributed to the Adaptation and Resilience Expert Group that developed the principles. 

EBRD Issues First Climate Resilience Bond

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) issued the first bond to solely finance climate resilience projects. This is the first bond to fulfill the requirements of the new Climate Resilience Principles. Craig Davies, head of climate resilience investments at the EBRD, told Environmental Finance "The climate resiliency principles that the CBI has developed are a really important landmark because they very clearly set out eligibility criteria, and some very simple but clear and robust methodologies for defining a climate-resilient investment." The EBRD's four year bond raised $700 million to finance "climate-resilient infrastructure, business and commercial operations, or agricultural and ecological systems."

The EBRD also released a consultation draft of a Framework for Climate Resilience Metrics in Financing Operations this week. The report, published jointly with other multilateral development banks and the International Development Finance Club, outlines a vocabulary to facilitate consistent discussion and measurement of resilience investment.
Global Commission on Adaptation Launches Year of Action
The Global Commission on Adaptation presented its flagship report, Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience this week at the United Nations Climate Summit. This report emphasizes the return on investment of climate adaptation, noting that "investing $1.8 trillion globally in five areas from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits." It focuses on early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improving dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and increasing the resilience of water resources. This kicks off the Commission's Year of Action, during which it will advance recommendations, accelerate adaptation, promote more sustainable economic development and collate findings to present at the Climate Adaptation Summit in October 2020.
The Commission's report was informed by a paper called Driving Finance Today for the Climate Resilient Society Tomorrow by the UNEP Finance Initiative and Climate Finance Advisors. It outlines financial barriers to the acceleration of adaptation investment and recommends six actions to unlock adaptation finance. These actions include accelerating climate-relevant policies, implementing climate risk management, developing adaptation metrics, building financial sector capacity, highlighting investment opportunities and leveraging public institutions to accelerate adaptation investment. 
Retailers Prepare for Physical Climate Risk
Women's apparel store, A'gaci, filed for bankruptcy in January 2018 after most of its stores were hit by hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Hurricanes can affect retail operations by causing building damage, merchandise loss and supply chain disruptions, and Hurricane Irma caused an estimated $2.8 billion loss for the sector. Retail Dive explores the implications of climate change for the retail sector at large, using Four Twenty Seven's data on retail site exposure. With over 17,000 retail facilities exposed to floods in the U.S., some businesses are beginning to prepare, reorganizing their distribution patterns and supply chains. Some retail stores, such as Home Depot, can also see increases in demand after extreme events, and will particularly stand to benefit if their facilities are resilient to climate hazards and can accommodate the associated surge in business. 

New research by a Federal Reserve Board Economist, finds that weather variability impacts retail sales. On average, sales tend to increase with temperature and decrease with rain and snowfall. Overall there is not a clear shift in shopping habits from outdoor stores to indoor venues during extreme weather, but these patterns do show regional variation, suggesting that the impacts of extreme weather events vary by region. The impact of extreme events on sales will have an impact on retail employees and local economies depending on these companies. Businesses can leverage this research, alongside data on climate risk exposure, to plan for these shifts in consumer behavior. 
Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Meet Operations Coordinator, Naoko Neishi 

Four Twenty Seve welcomes Naoko, who supports senior management and works with the Operations Manager to achieve operational excellence. Naoko has over 16 years of experience as a sales assistant and office manager in the United States and Japan, working in the financial and engineering industries.

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