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.
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.
The TCFD Status Report published early June 2019 reiterates the need for corporations and financial institutions to perform scenario analysis in a context of uncertainty over climate risk. It notes that while about 56% of companies use scenario analysis, only 33% perform scenario analysis for physical risk. Even fewer firms (43% of those using scenario analysis) disclose their assumptions and findings. The report contains useful case studies, but most focus on transition risk.
Yet a growing number of corporations and financial institutions recognize the need to integrate physical risk into scenario analysis and to develop resilience strategies that address imminent challenges from climate impacts. For example, the most recent IPCC report illustrating the impact of 1.5˚C increase in global temperatures on mean temperatures, extreme temperatures, extreme precipitation and sea levels shows that there will be significant implications for economies even with a 1.5˚C increase in global temperatures. This is still a best case scenario compared to impacts of 2˚C or 2.5˚C warming.
Scenario analysis for physical risk is fundamentally different from transition risk in its challenges and assumptions. This blog series provides our current reflections on how corporations and financial institutions can integrate physical climate risk into scenario analysis. This first blog presents the Foundations, focusing on important characteristics of climate science that affect how climate data can be used to inform scenario analysis for economic and financial risk. The next blog focuses on Equity Markets, with concrete examples of how available data can inform financial stakeholders ready to start putting scenario analysis into action. A forthcoming post will discuss scenario analysis at the asset level for real asset investments and corporate facilities.
The physical impacts of climate change encompass a range of direct and indirect hazards caused or exacerbated by the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Previous publications such as Advancing TFCD Guidance for Physical Risks and Opportunities, for which Four Twenty Seven was a lead author, provide background on these hazards as they pertain to corporate value chains and economic activities. Further information is also available in Cicero’s excellent report, Shades of Climate Risk. Categorizing climate risk for investors.
Rapid developments in atmospheric and climate science over the past 30 years enable us to understand how these physical hazards will evolve over time due to climate change. Sophisticated global climate models project expected changes in key physical phenomena affected by greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration: heat, humidity, precipitation, ocean temperature, ocean acidification, etc. Like any other models, climate models have limitations in their accuracy and ability to correctly simulate complex and interrelated phenomena. However, it is worth noting that since 1973 models have been consistently successful in projecting within the range of warming that we have experienced in the past twenty years. More details on climate data and uncertainties from global climate models can be found in our report, Using Climate Data.
The Bad News: Impacts Are Locked In
Global climate models project different possible outcomes using scenarios called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). RCP scenarios capture differing GHG emissions trajectories based on a representation of plausible global policy outcomes, without specifying the details of the underlying policies that could generate this outcome. These scenarios show that GHG emissions generated over the coming decades will influence the severity of impacts in the long-term, but also that we are already committed to some impacts through 2100 and beyond.
This is particularly noticeable over the “short term.” When looking at the next 10 to 20 years, projections for temperature and other physical hazards do not present significant differences under different emissions scenarios (Fig 1). This is due to the massive inertia of the Earth’s systems, and the life expectancy of the stock of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. To put it simply, significantly reducing GHG emissions is akin to applying the brakes on a rapidly moving truck. It won’t stop instantaneously. Even if we were to stop emitting GHG altogether, climate change would persist. In the words of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), climate change “represents a substantial multi-century commitment created by the past, present, and future emissions of CO2.”
This is by no mean an invitation to give up on reducing GHG emissions. Quite the opposite. Emission reductions are critical to curbing long term impacts and avoiding irreversible effects to our environment (Fig. 2). But for organizations looking at climate data and scenario analysis for risk management and strategy, with a focus on the coming decade(s), this is a critical fact to understand.
Aside from RCP-driven scenarios, there is, of course, a broad range of possible increases in temperature (and other climate hazards) even when looking at the 2030-2040 time frame. These plausible differences are not so much policy-driven as science-driven, demonstrating the different possible responses from the Earth’s systems to the existing stock of GHG.
These differences have significant implications for businesses and investors. For example, a model of sea level rise developed in 2018 incorporates accelerated rates of melting and recent advancements in modelling ice-cliff dynamics to capture extreme risk of coastal flooding. The model shows the Atlantic rising by 1.2m (3.9ft) by 2060 on the Florida coastline, which would equate to widespread flooding of coastal properties with potential domino effects on real estate prices across the state (Fig 3). The ‘intermediate’ scenario, however, most often used for planning, predicts only a 55cm (1.8ft) rise in water levels. While reducing GHG emissions does reduce the risk of more extreme sea level rise millennia into the future, year after year, scientists find that the Antarctic is warming faster than anybody predicted, and there is increasing concern that the process of ice sheet melt may be too far advanced to be stopped.
Thus, performing scenario analysis where the key variable is GHG emission reduction targets may not be an accurate representation of the range of possible outcomes for the near future. Rather, looking at high and low warming projections across a large set of models to understand the range of potential outcomes (independent of the underlying RCP scenario) is a better way to understand potential risk. In other words, physical risks over the next 10-20 years are largely independent from policy decisions and emission pathways, and a rapid, orderly, effective transition to a low-carbon economy could still come with massive physical impacts as these processes are already under way, fueled by the past 150 years of GHG emissions.
The Worse News: Tipping Points
Another challenge is that climate scientists are not currently able to model certain possible impacts from climate change, commonly known as “tipping points.” Tipping points is a catch-all term for a wide range of phenomena that may accelerate feedbacks due to climate change, though the timing or probability of their manifestation is currently not well understood. The phenomena are known as tipping points because past a certain threshold, they may not be reversible, even with a dramatic reduction in GHG emissions. Tipping points of most concern to the scientific community are presented in this report from the Environmental Defense Fund.
Some tipping points catalyze “feedback loops” which can worsen and dramatically accelerate climate change beyond human control. Such is the case, for example, with melting ice sheets, which would not only lead to catastrophic sea level rise, but would also further heat up the planet as the poles’ albedo (reflectivity) is reduced after the ice disappears. Thawing permafrost could lead to massive amounts of methane, a particularly powerful GHG, to be released from the frozen tundra into the atmosphere (in addition to many direct impacts for local communities, infrastructure and ecosystems in the region).
Tipping points further reinforce uncertainty about severity and timing of these extreme impacts and the limitations of using RCP scenarios to understand the range of outcomes for physical risk.
Another source of uncertainty for physical climate impacts are knock-on effects, or ‘indirect hazards,’ from the primary expression of global warming (rising temperature and humidity), ranging from biodiversity losses and ecosystem collapses, human health impacts, impacts on crop yields, pests and soil, impacts on human society, increased violence, and rates of war and migration, etc. (Fig 4)
These indirect or second-order hazards are as relevant as first-order impacts to understand the implications of physical climate change on economic outcomes, but they’re not captured by RCP scenarios and many require stand-alone models that cannot easily be integrated into one clean set of scenarios.
Scenario analysis is often approached from the perspective of transition risk, where policy developments and GHG emission targets are the key drivers of risk pathways over the next 10 to 30 years. Physical risk, however, requires a different approach. Impacts over the coming decades are largely locked-in and are only marginally influenced by GHG emission pathways. In contrast, uncertainty looms large regarding how severe these physical hazards will be, and exploring a range of possible outcomes for physical risk, including looking at tail-risks, provides important insights for risk management and financial analysis. In summary, the current state of scientific knowledge and the nature of the Earth’s atmospheric systems call for the developments of scenarios that are decoupled from transition/policy scenarios and instead focused on key scientific drivers of uncertainty and risks that may be experienced regardless of policy decisions over the short to medium term (2020-2040).
While efforts to develop easy-to-use tools for physical risk analysis are nascent, organizations can still extract important insights from climate data and leverage estimates of risk exposure across portfolios. Our next blog in this series provides examples of how financial institutions can leverage data on physical risk exposure in equities to inform some early scenario analysis in equity markets.
Four Twenty Seven’s data products and portfolio analytics support risk reporting and enable investors and businesses to understand their exposure to physical climate risks across asset classes.
What does the future hold?
New research on sea level rise emphasizes the potential for dire changes over the course of the century. Recent satellite data suggests that warming water is causing East Antarctica to melt more quickly than previously thought and a study released in early May found that almost a quarter of West Antarctica’s ice is thinning, with its largest glaciers shrinking five times faster than in 1992. A study based on expert opinion found that there is the possibility of sea levels rising by 2 meters (6.5ft) under an extreme scenario of 5˚C global temperature increase. This would mean an area of land as big as Libya would be lost, and up to 2.5% of the population globally could be displaced.
Extreme scenarios of sea level rise will have severe impacts on our cities and economies. Sea level rise is happening today to a lesser extent; however it is already having tangible impacts on real estate values. This means increasing costs for property owners and tenants, but it also has far-reaching market impacts on access to and cost of insurance, fluctuations in market values and potential increase in local taxes to fund adaptation efforts.
Of all U.S. states, Florida is expected to experience the greatest consequences of sea level rise. Between 1960 and 2015, sea levels along the Florida coast rose by 10-15 cm (4-6 in), and the range of projections vary wide looking a few decades out, with projections ranging from 33 to 122cm (13-48 in) by 2060.
Widespread flooding risk in Florida
65,000 homes in Florida worth $35 billion are expected to be underwater or impacted daily by high tides in 2040. From soaring insurance premiums and increasing risk of disclosure to declining property value and diminishing tax revenue, sea level rise is already challenging property owners, investors and banks. Among other impacts, the value of single-family homes in Miami-Dade County that are exposed to sea level rise declined by about $465 million between 2005 and 2016.
Furthermore, climate change is predicted to increase the number of strong hurricanes in the region. These stronger storms will combine with sea level rise to exacerbate the impacts of extreme floods. Storm surge flooding damages buildings and landscaping, destroys merchandise, and can also have wide-reaching economic impacts due to damaged power and transportation infrastructure.
Last but not least, tidal flooding, also called “nuisance” or “sunny day” flooding increased from 1.3 to 3 days per year in the Southeast from 2000-2015. By the end of the century tidal flooding could happen daily. Even with no rainfall, these floods have significant impacts – halting traffic, overburdening drainage systems and damaging infrastructure.
Investors and businesses have a responsibility to understand these risks: using best available science to measure exposure to sea level rise and other flood risks, getting informed on adaptation efforts by local governments, and engaging with local industry associations or other groups to promote further investments in resilience.
Four Twenty Seven works with investors to provide portfolio hotpot screenings and real time due diligence with site-specific data on sea level rise and other climate risks. Contact us for more detailed analysis and site-specific data on sea level rise exposure and detailed analysis of local jurisdictions’ response.
April 25, 2018 – 427 TECHNICAL BRIEF. Financial institutions, corporations, and governments increasingly strive to identify and respond to risks driven by physical climate impacts. Understanding the risks posed by climate change for facilities or infrastructure assets starts with conducting a risk assessment, which requires an understanding of the physical impacts of climate change. However, climate data in its raw form is difficult to integrate into enterprise risk management, financial risk modelling processes, and capital planning. This primer provides a brief introduction to climate models and data from a business or government perspective.
The first of several reports explaining the data and climate hazards analyzed in Four Twenty Seven’s equity risk scores and portfolio analytics, Using Climate Data unpacks the process through which raw climate data is transformed into usable metrics, such as future temperature projections, to help financial, corporate and government users productively incorporate climate-based analytics into their workflows. Beginning by explaining what a global climate model is, the report explains climate data’s format, computational choices to hedge uncertainty and resources for aggregated climate projections tailored to specific audiences.
On September 29th, Mark Carney, recently appointed Governor of the Bank of England, gave a speech on the risks of climate change to financial stability at a Lloyd’s insurance event. Carney referred to climate change as the “tragedy of the horizon,” citing outcomes like the impact of rising seas on the world’s coastlines and infrastructure as one of the largest risks to financial stability around the world. Carney cited three major risks to financial stability from climate change.
1. Climate change presents physical risks
First risk: “The impacts today on insurance liabilities and the value of financial assets that arise from climate- and weather-related events, such as floods and storms that damage property or disrupt trade.”
In the context of sea level rise, the impacts of climate change on infrastructure and property along the world’s coastlines are readily apparent. Carney referenced a Lloyd’s study that “estimated that the 20 cm rise in sea-level at the tip of Manhattan since the 1950’s, when all other factors are held constant, increased insured losses from Superstorm Sandy by 30 percent in New York alone.”
Rising seas already compounded the impact of hurricane Sandy, knocking out power grids, flooding subways and causing financial damages estimated to be between $30 billion to $50 Billion. Under current projections of sea level rise up to a 6.6 foot increase is possible by 2100; and as oceans rise so will the physical impact of superstorms.
2. A changing climate creates liability risk
Second risk: “The impacts that could arise tomorrow if parties who have suffered loss or damage from the effects of climate change seek compensation from those they hold responsible. Such claims could come decades in the future, but have the potential to hit carbon extractors and emitters – and, if they have liability cover, their insurers – the hardest”
Carney suggests that those who suffer the majority of asset loss from climate change could look to hold polluters, governments or private firms accountable for risk exposure.
Nestle is now being sued for the use of water in Southern California and their impact on the California drought. Lawsuits against corporations, governments or private land owners who have shifted the true costs of their behavior onto the commons have the potential to be held accountable for their behavior as extreme weather events become more common and impactful.
Liability for the loss of property and adverse health affects due to climate change are not only held by private firms, but also my American taxpayers. In Alaska, the town of Kivalina is already being displaced by sea level rise and melting sea ice. In response the Obama administration has proposed $50.4 Million in federal aid for relocation costs.
3. Climate change will create more stranded assets
Third risk: “The financial risks which could result from the process of adjustment towards a lower-carbon economy. Changes in policy, technology and physical risks could prompt a reassessment of the value of a large range of assets as costs and opportunities become apparent.”
What Carney is getting at here is the fact that an assessment of liability will change the valuation of an asset. This includes what is commonly referred to as “stranded assets”, in particular fossil fuel reserves — and the plants that process and burn them — will become useless is a world focused on carbon-free energy. But it also includes a much greater class of assets that could become stranded, for example real estate on properties that experience frequent and increasing flooding. After the world has seen enough primary property loss and secondary liability loss due to impacts like rising seas our markets will compensate by devaluing at risk assets.
Climate science has been warning us for decades that the impacts of unbridled emissions are on the horizon, but what Carney adds to the conversation is the translation of the risks into financial terms. As acceptance and information about climate change increase so too does the desire to find innovative solutions that build resilience into how we do business and navigate the risks. Being informed about the potential impact of sea level rise and extreme weather events can help industry and government adapt and keep out of the deep waters of rising seas.
By Sam Irvine
If there is a front line in the war on climate change, it is the world’s coasts. And if there will be casualties from the hard-fought battle, the hardest hit could be the maritime shipping industry. This was the case in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina charged into Louisiana, battered the Port of Gulfport, handily tossed aside shipping containers, prompting $250 million worth of repairs.
The maritime shipping industry, comprised primarily of ports and shipping companies, is positioned in a truly difficult spot when it comes to dealing with the adverse effects of climate change, which will be hitting the industry from all angles.
First and foremost, sea level rise – caused by melting glaciers and the expansion of ocean water as it warms – threatens port infrastructure, which is by necessity situated at sea level. It’s worth noting that the rate of sea level rise is slow and varies a great deal from location to location. According to a 2011 survey, many ports note that they tend to plan with less than a 10-year outlook, although infrastructure is built to last multiple decades. So although sea level rise will occur at what may seem like a snail’s pace, the change is certainly large enough to be a factor when considering the current state of the industry’s planning and building practices.
Of course, sea level rise itself is not the main direct impact, it is what happens because of it – more frequent and intense flooding. As sea level rises, it will take increasingly weak storms and their resulting storm surges to impact infrastructure on land. This is not just an issue for port infrastructure. Inundation from storm surge can impact the operations of port facilities by preventing laborers from getting to work, by increasing downtime and consequently delays, or by raising costs from relocation or repair of flooded facilities.
The list of direct impacts for the maritime shipping industry are numerous: higher temperatures increase refrigeration costs, increased storminess could force longer and more expensive shipping routes, or intensified rainfall events delaying loading/unloading of cargo at ports.
While these impacts are highly concerning, the degree of their impacts can be reasonably well understood, and actions can be taken directly by ports and shipping companies to mitigate their risks.
Perhaps more disconcerting are the indirect impacts that climate change presents to this industry. Widespread climate change will bring macro-level changes to the demand and supply of goods handled by shipping companies and passing through ports.
Take for instance the largest port in the country, the Port of South Louisiana, which lies along the southernmost stretch of the Mississippi River and processes 60% of the Midwest’s grain exports. As drought and extreme heat continue to ravage the region, corn, soybean, and wheat output from states like Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois, which traditionally export their product via the Mississippi River, will plummet. The indirect consequence is that shipping companies will have less demand for their services, and ports will not earn as much profit as the quantity in business diminishes.
The maritime shipping industry is directly in the cross hairs of climate change, and yet strikingly few port administrators are planning for its consequences. Depending on location, infrastructure, and products, there are myriad negative consequences that will be felt by shipping companies and ports. It is time for this sector to prepare for changes and ensure that they can rebound from disasters and be responsive to a changing climate.
By Colin Gannon