Measuring What Matters: A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk

December 3, 2020 – Four Twenty Seven Report.  More frequent and severe extreme events driven by climate change pose a significant threat to nations around the world and understanding who and what is exposed to climate hazards is essential to pricing this risk and preparing for its impacts. This new report and underlying analytics assess sovereign exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and typhoons, sea level rise, wildfires, and water stress based on the only known global dataset matching physical climate risk exposure to locations of population, GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) and agricultural areas within countries. 

Read the full report.

Globally, increasingly severe climate conditions impose growing pressure on populations and economies. The implications on economic growth, welfare, production, labor, and productivity are large, with potential material impacts on sovereign credit risk. However, assessing sovereign climate risk presents significant challenges. While most approaches to quantifying future climate risk exposure for sovereigns measure the average exposure over the entire territory of a country, this doesn’t capture whether the populated or economically productive areas are exposed to extremes. Likewise, averages of exposures to several climate hazards can mask extreme exposure to a particular hazard in a certain area of a country.

We’ve mapped the co-occurrence of hazards and exposures, explicitly factoring in the spatial heterogeneity of both climate hazards and people and economic activities across a country. This new report, Measuring What Matters – A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk, provides an analysis of the data. We find that all nations face meaningful risks despite their variation in size and resources. Explore sovereign climate risk in the interactive map below, based on both total and percent of a nation’s population, GDP (PPP) and agricultural areas exposed to climate hazards in 2040.

 

Key Findings:

  • By 2040, we project the number of people exposed to damaging floods will rise from 2.2 billion to 3.6 billion people, or from 28% to 41% of the global population. Roughly $78 trillion, equivalent to about 57% of the world’s current GDP, will be exposed to flooding.
  • Over 25% of the world’s population in 2040 could be in areas where the frequency and severity of hot days far exceeds local historical extremes, with negative implications for human health, labor productivity, and agriculture. In some areas of Latin America, climate change will expose 80-100% of agriculture to increased heat stress in 2040
  • By 2040, we estimate over a third of today’s agricultural area will be subject to high water stress. In Africa, over 125 million people and over 35 million hectares of agriculture will be exposed to increased water stress, threatening regional food security.
  • By 2040, nearly a third of the world’s population may live in areas where the meteorological conditions and vegetative fuel availability would allow for wildfires to spread if ignited.
  • Over half of the population in the most exposed small island developing nations are exposed to either cyclones or coastal flooding amplified by sea level rise. In the United States and China alone, over $10 trillion worth of GDP (PPP) is exposed to hurricanes and typhoons.

Read the full report.

Read the press release.

Contact us to learn more about accessing this unique dataset or explore our other physical climate risk data for banks and investors.

 

*Erratum: In Table 1 of a previous version of this report the “Agriculture Area at High Risk” column was said to be in units of 1 billion hectares. However, it is in units of 100 million hectares. 

Moody’s: Climate Risk and Resilience at US Airports

Climate change will expose the airport sector to increased physical climate risks within the next two decades. In its report, US airports face growing climate risks, but business model and resiliency investments mitigate impact, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore potential damages from increased exposure of US airports to floods, heat stress, hurricanes, sea level rise and wildfires.

The report found that in 2004-2019, an average 37% of delayed flights annually resulted from climate-related extreme weather events. Airports along coastlines or rivers face particular risks as floods can damage crucial structures such as runways and terminals leading to significant costs or rendering the assets unusable. Likewise hurricanes can cause widespread damage including economic impacts on broader regions. Heat stress and wildfire smoke can both present challenges for planes taking off or landing, leading to delayed or canceled flights or adjusted cargo loads.

Airports often undertake long-term capital intensive projects and integrating resilience measures into planning these investments will be critical. Liquidity will also help absorb the effect of disruptive climate-related events.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

———————-

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.

Report: Climate Change and Sovereign Risk

This joint report provides a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which climate risks affect sovereign risk, demonstrating new empirical evidence of how climate risk and resilience influence the costs of capital. It also explores the implications for Southeast Asia in particular, where countries are highly exposed to climate change risks and their economic consequences. Lastly, the report outlines five policy recommendations based on these findings. The report was a collaboration between the Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS University of London, the Asian Development Bank Institute, the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore and Four Twenty Seven.

Download the full report.

Download the Executive Summary.

Watch the launch event.

“Climate Change and Sovereign Risk” outlines six transmission channels through which climate change affects sovereign risk and in turn the cost of capital, providing examples of each and explaining how they’re connected. It uses empirical analysis to demonstrate the significant impacts of climate risk exposure on the cost of capital. Using a sample of 40 developed and emerging economies, econometric analysis shows that higher climate risk vulnerability leads to significant rises in the cost of sovereign borrowing. Premia on sovereign bond yields amount to around 275 basis points for economies highly exposed to climate risk. This risk premium is estimated at 113 basis points for emerging market economies overall, and 155 basis points for Southeast Asian economies.

To further explore these channels, the report provides a closer look at Southeast Asia, a region with significant exposure to climate hazards such as storms, floods, sea level rise, heat waves and water stress. Physical risks are expected to considerably affect economic activity, international commerce, employment and public finances across Southeast Asian countries. Transition risks will be prominent as exports and economies become affected by international climate policies, technological change and shifting consumption patterns. The implications of climate change for macrofinancial stability and sovereign risk are likely to be material for most if not all countries in Southeast Asia.

The report highlights the need for governments to climate-proof their economies and public finances or potentially face an ever-worsening spiral of climate vulnerability and unsustainable debt burdens. It outlines five policy recommendations, emphasizing the importance for financial authorities to integrate climate risk into their risk management processes and for governments to prioritize comprehensive climate vulnerability assessments and work with the financial sector to promote investment in climate adaptation.

The report was originally posted by SOAS University of London.

Report: Measuring TCFD Disclosures

September 24, 2020 – Vigeo Eiris and Four Twenty Seven Report. The TCFD recommendations helped to catalyze a global conversation on the need for increased climate risk assessment and disclosure. While there is much progress still to be made, there has recently been significant developments in the uptake and quality of TCFD-aligned climate risk disclosures. This report explains Vigeo Eiris’ new TCFD Climate Strategy Assessment dataset, sharing key findings of how firms’ disclosure align with each element of the TCFD framework and includes a case study on how companies’ risk reporting compare to their physical risk exposure.

Download the report.

Consistent climate risk disclosure is essential to improving market transparency and building a more resilient financial system. As devastating extreme events, regulatory developments and investor pressure have led to an increase in climate risk disclosure, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures’ (TCFD) recommendations have become a global reference. Moody’s affiliate Vigeo Eiris’ new TCFD Climate Strategy Assessment dataset provides a granular view of how 2,855 companies report in line with TCFD recommendations.

This new Vigeo Eiris and Four Twenty Seven report, Measuring TCFD Disclosures, explores the key findings from this assessment, highlighting companies’ disclosures in governance, strategy and risk management.  We find that while 30% of companies have identified at least one climate-related risk that may affect their business, only 3% have disclosed enhanced due diligence for projects and transactions. The report highlights examples from the three sectors of energy, electric & gas utilities and diversified banks to compare reporting for several indicators within each TCFD category. It  includes a case study on the energy sector to review how companies’ physical risk exposure compares to their risk disclosure. Based on Four Twenty Seven’s data on physical climate risk, we find that there is still significant discrepancy between how companies are exposed to climate risk and what they disclose. This is essential for investors to understand when leveraging disclosures to assess their own risk exposure and when engaging with companies around improving climate risk assessment and disclosure.

Key Findings:

  • Overall:
    • 30% of the companies have identified at least one climate-related risk that may affect their business and strategy over the short, medium and long term.
    • Physical risks are most frequently reported, followed by policy and legal risks.
  • Governance:
    • 15% of the companies report on having assigned climate-related responsibilities to management.
    • 16% have established processes to inform board members about climate change issues.
  • Strategy
    • 12% of all assessed companies report the development of products or services that contribute to the low-carbon economy, making it the most common Strategy disclosure.
    •  Only 8% of the European and 7% of the North American companies in the panel disclosed climate change as a material factor in their financial planning.
  •  Risk Management:
    •  30% of the assessed energy companies report using an internal carbon price.
    •  Enhanced due diligence for projects and transactions remains a minority practice, with only 3% of companies disclosing information on this specific recommendation.

Download the report.

————————————–

For more information on climate risk exposure and disclosure explore Vigeo Eiris’ transition risk data and Four Twenty Seven’s solutions for assessing physical risk exposure across asset classes.

Moody’s: Credit Risk of Sea Level Rise for Coastal Governments

Climate change is driving more frequent coastal flooding, which threatens infrastructure, real estate and economies. In its report, Sea Level Rise Increases Credit Risk for Coastal States and Local Governments, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data to explore the credit risks of sea level rise for coastal governments.

The analysis highlights several areas with particular exposure to increasing sea level rise, which threatens property value growth and associate tax revenue, in turn increasing credit risk. Increased disruption due to coastal flooding disrupts the local economies that rely on coastal economic activities to generate revenue. Likewise, areas less exposed to flooding are prone to climate gentrification, as property values increase when these areas become more desirable and residents can be displaced. Though it can be expensive, effective, equitable adaptation measures can reduce vulnerability to sea level rise and support credit-quality. This requires tax revenue, financial capacity, and growth strategies that aim to protect vulnerable local economies and property values.

Coastal economies across the U.S. are exposed to the impacts of sea level rise. However coordinated adaptation efforts between federal, state and local governments can reduce risks. Areas such as Gulf Coast states lag in state-level adaptation policies, causing local governments to shoulder the financial burden of sea level rise, and straining their credit quality. Federal government leadership and increased funding is key in supporting adaptation measures that mitigate the impacts of sea level risks in coastal areas.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

—————–

To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our analysis on the impacts of sea level rise on real estate.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

——————————–

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

Climate Change and Wildfires: Projecting Future Wildfire Potential

August 6, 2020 – Four Twenty Seven Report. Wildfires are complex physical phenomena that come at extraordinary costs to human and natural systems. Climate change is already making wildfires more severe and this new research finds that it will lead to more days with high wildfire potential in areas already prone to wildfires, and create hotter and drier conditions that will expose entirely new areas. Understanding which areas are exposed to changing wildfire conditions will help leaders in government, finance and public health to mitigate catastrophic loss. This report explores Four Twenty Seven’s new methodology for assessing global wildfire potential, identifying regional trends and hot spots.

Read the full report.

The 2019-2020 Australian bushfires raged for seven months, killed more than 30 people, hospitalized thousands more,[1] and burned more than 10 million hectares of land.[2] While the full financial and ecological impact is still unknown, costs from those fires are likely to exceed $4.4 billion.[3] Meanwhile, ten of the largest wildfires in Arizona’s history occurred in the last eight years and nine of California’s largest wildfires occurred in just the last seven years.[4]

Beyond direct losses and disruption from damage to buildings and infrastructure, air pollution from wildfires has led to healthcare costs in excess of $100 billion in losses per year in the United States.[5] Leaders in government, finance, and public health need to understand how and where climate change will further heighten wildfire potential because of the serious threat wildfires pose to societies, economies, and natural systems.

This new report, Climate Change and Wildfires: Projecting Future Wildfire Potential, outlines Four Twenty Seven’s approach to quantifying global wildfire potential, capturing both absolute and relative changes in frequency and severity by 2030-2040.  Wildfire potential refers to meteorological conditions and vegetative fuel sources that are conducive to wildfires. Using a proprietary methodology submitted for peer review, our analytics link climate drivers such as changing temperature and precipitation patterns with the availability of vegetative fuels to assess wildfire potential in the future.

The analysis also explores key regions exposed to increasing wildfire potential and discusses the implications for financial stakeholders and communities. Our analytics affirm common understanding about locations exposed to wildfire, providing an indication of the increasing severity and frequency of wildfires in areas already prone to these events. The report also offers insight into areas that may have less obvious exposure, but are likely to have higher wildfire potential over time. Preparing for wildfires is a local, and often regional effort. The relatively high spatial granularity of our results (~25 kilometers) enables decision-makers to evaluate wildfire potential at a useful scale.

Key Findings:

  • Four Twenty Seven developed a first-of-its-kind global dataset projecting changes to wildfire potential under a changing climate, at a granularity of about 25 x 25 kilometers.
  • In areas already exposed to wildfires, by 2030-2040 climate change will prolong wildfire seasons, adding up to three months of days with high wildfire potential in Western Australia, over two months in regions of northern California and a month in European countries including Spain, Portugal and Greece.
  • New wildfire risks will emerge in historically wet and cool regions, such as Siberia, which is projected to have 20 more days of high wildfire potential in 2030-2040.
  • Globally, western portions of the Amazon and Southeast Asia will experience the largest relative increases in wildfire severity, further threatening crucial biodiversity hotspots and carbon sinks.
  • Confronting this new risk will take unprecedented resources and new approaches in regions not familiar with wildfires and worsening wildfire seasons will continue to threaten already limited resources in currently exposed areas.

Read the full report.

Download the press release.

[1] Cohen, Li, “Australian bushfire smoke killed more people than the fires did, study says,” CBS News, March 20, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/australia-fires-bushfire-smoke-killed-more-people-than-the-fires-did-study-says/.

[2] Rodway, Nick, “‘We are a ghost town’: Counting the cost of Australia’s bushfires,” Aljazeera, January 27, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/ghost-town-counting-cost-australias-bushfires-200127035021168.html.

[3] Ben Butler, “Economic Impact of Australia’s Bushfires Set to Exceed $4.4bn Cost of Black Saturday,” The Guardian, January 7, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/08/economic-impact-of-australias-bushfires-set-to-exceed-44bn-cost-of-black-saturday.

[4] Cappucci, Matthew and Freedman, Andrew, “Arizona wildfires grow as flames flicker throughout Desert Southwest and California,” The Washington Post, June 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/06/22/arizona-wildfires-grow-flames-flicker-throughout-desert-southwest-california/

[5] Fann N., Alman B., Broome R. A., Morgan G. G., Johnston F. H., Pouliot G., & Rappold A. G., “The health impacts and economic value of wildland fire episodes in the U.S.: 2008-2012,” The Science of the Total Environment, 2018.

Moody’s: Using Scenario Analysis to Assess Credit Impact of Climate Risks

Climate-driven extreme weather events and the transition to a low-carbon economy are expected to have material impacts on companies, with increasing significance for credit analysis. However, both physical and transition risks have a wide range of potential outcomes. To better understand the credit implications and prepare for climate risks it is important to assess the rage of possible outcomes for a given sector or company.

In its report, Climate scenarios vital to assess credit impact of carbon transition, physical risks, Moody’s Investors Service describes a conceptual approach to scenario analysis, leveraging Four Twenty Seven’s methodology for physical risks. The transition risk approach begins by assessing the sector-specific credit implications of national commitments to the Paris Agreement based on the IEA Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS). The second step is to assess the implications of a more ambitious transition scenario to see how firms may be affected by more rapid decarbonization.  This step leverages the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario.

For physical climate risk, Moody’s leverages Four Twenty Seven’s approach for exploring the range of potential outcomes in the next 30 years. It’s important to note that in the near-term the uncertainty in physical outcomes is not driven by policy changes, but rather by scientific uncertainty within the climate models. The climate takes a long time to fully respond to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, so physical climate events in the next few decades will be driven by carbon dioxide that’s already been released. By grouping the outcomes of climate models within a single RCP into low, medium and high tiers one can explore the range of potential severity in climate hazards such as extreme temperature and precipitation. Moody’s will use data from Four Twenty Seven that follows this approach to provide a uniform starting point from which to explore the range of credit implications of different climate hazards across sectors.

Register for free to read the full report.

—————–

To learn more about scenario analysis for physical climate risks read Four Twenty Seven’s paper, Demystifying Climate Scenario Analysis for Financial Stakeholders and check out solutions for investors, banks and corporations to manage their climate risk.

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.

—————-

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.

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.