Racial Justice and Climate Change: Exposure

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.

Climate Change: An Economic Risk for Canadian Municipalities

Introduction

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

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

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

Why it Matters

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

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

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

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

Read the full article at Public Sector Digest.

Newsletter: The Economic Costs of Wildfires

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

In Focus: Impacts of Australia's Bushfires

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Actors and Corporate Leaders Urged to Take Climate Seriously

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

Climate Risk as a Credit Risk

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

Climate Change - The Green Swan

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

Bank of England Consultation Paper on Climate Risk Scenarios

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

The French Central Bank's Climate Risk Stress Tests

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

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

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

Meet Controller, Yang Jing

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

Join the Team! Four Twenty Seven is Hiring

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

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Moody’s: Utilities Exposed to Increasing Climate Risk

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

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

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

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

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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

Newsletter: Scenario Analysis for Physical Climate Risks

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

In Focus: Scenario Analysis for
Physical Climate Risks

427 Report: Demystifying Scenario Analysis for Financial Stakeholders

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

Leveraging the Cloud for Rapid Climate Risk Assessments

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

The Next Generation of Climate Models

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

Global Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise Worse than Previously Understood

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

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

Meet Senior Software Engineer, Alix Herrmann 

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

Join the Team! Four Twenty Seven is Hiring

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

Join the Four Twenty Seven team at these events:

  • Dec 4 - 5 – RI New York 2019, New York, NY: Stop by Four Twenty Seven's booth to meet the team and hear Global Director of Client Services, Yoon Kim, speak about climate risk stress tests. Senior Analyst, Lindsay Ross, and Editor, Natalie Ambrosio, will host Four Twenty Seven's booth.
  • Dec 10 – Sustainatopia, Sunnyvale, CA: Natalie Ambrosio will speak on integrating physical climate risk into investment strategies.
  • Dec 9 - 12 AGU Fall Meeting 2019, San Francisco, CA: Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, and Senior Data Analysts, Josh Turner and Colin Gannon, will attend.
  • Jan 6 - Jan 9NCSE 2020 Annual Conference, Washington, DC: Yoon Kim and Lindsay Ross will speak about cross-sector resilience-building and resilient infrastructure, respectively.
  • Jan 12 - Jan 16 2020 AMS Meeting, Boston, MA: Josh Turner will attend.
  • Jan 27 –  Cleantech Forum, San Francisco, CA: Natalie Ambrosio will speak.
  • Feb 10 - 12 – Americatalyst 2020: Entropy, Dallas, TX: Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, will speak.
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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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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: PG&E Bankruptcy Sparks Investor Concern

Four Twenty Seven's monthly newsletter highlights recent developments on climate risk and resilience. This month we explore climate risk in the S&P 500, discuss the impacts of climate change on credit risk and share the latest reports on climate risk disclosure. 

In Focus: Climate Risk in the S&P 500

Barron's: An Exclusive Look at the Companies Most Exposed
to Climate Change Risk - And What They're Doing About It

Barron's features Four Twenty Seven's equity risk scores to explore physical climate risk exposure in the S&P 500, finding Western Digital, NextEra Energy, Micron Technology and Merck to be among the most exposed corporations in the United States. Barron's compelling story shows how (some) corporations are preparing for these risks, highlighting the need for more substantial and standardized disclosures on risk and resilience. 

Bloomberg also reports on corporate climate reporting, highlighting the self-reported exposure of many U.S. companies in CDP, as well as reported opportunities from a changing climate, such as Home Depot's estimation that increasing disasters and higher temperatures will mean more sales, particularly of fans and cooling appliances.
PG&E Bankruptcy Sparks Investor Concerns
The bankruptcy of PG&E, California's largest utility, has become a symbol of the very material impacts climate change can have on corporations and financial markets. While credit ratings agencies like Moody's had downgraded PG&E's credit rating to junk status based on its tens of billions of dollars in wildfire liability in the weeks preceding the bankruptcy, the question for investors is how these risks can be detected and priced in earlier.

In a broad review of emerging practices for ESG, Credit Risk and Ratings, the UN Principles for Responsible Investment highlights the increased transparency by credit rating agencies and investors into their thinking on ESG integration, although these groups often have different goals for their ESG analysis.

Indeed, the world of credit ratings is slowly moving towards a better integration of ESG considerations at large, including some aspects of climate change risk, like transition risk. Trucost, of S&P Global recently released a report on integrating transition risk scenario analysis into credit rating instruments, while  Fitch Ratings introduced ESG relevance scores that provide industry-specific explanations of ESG factors. Systematic integration of physical climate risk in corporate ratings, however, remains the next frontier for financial markets.
EU Releases Recommendations for
Climate Risk Disclosures

EU Technical Expert Group Report on Climate-related Disclosures

As part of Europe's Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth, the Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance released their final recommendations to the European Commission on integrating climate change into the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). The European Commission plans to adopt the directive in June, after a round of stakeholder consultation

The report integrates climate risks into the existing NFRD framework, which includes business model; policies and due diligence processes; outcomes; principal risks and their management; and key performance indicators. It maps this framework to TCFD recommendations and goes further, referencing the EBRD-GCECA report on metrics for physical climate risks and opportunities reporting. While many of the metrics identified in the recommendations are for transition risk, the authors do integrate physical climate risk throughout the report and also require disclosure of a company's impact on climate change.
Quantifying Climate Risk:
Stories from the Field

Dutch Central Bank Assesses Water Risk in the Financial Sector

The Dutch Central Bank broke new grounds in its effort to quantify environmental risk in financial markets. In its report Values at risk? Sustainability risks and goals in the Dutch financial sector, DNB assesses the exposure of the Dutch financial sector to water stress, biodiversity loss, resource scarcity and human rights controversies, leveraging Four Twenty Seven's analytics on water stress.

Building on the Base: TCFD Disclosure in Asia

This report surveys the uptake of TCFD recommendations by large companies in Asia, focusing on the financial services, agriculture, energy, materials, buildings, mining and transport sectors. The research found that insurance, transport and energy sectors scored the highest for both quality and coverage of TCFD reporting, while asset owners and managers had lower average scores. 

On Again: France Enters Third Year of Mandatory Disclosures

2019 marks the third reporting year under Art. 173 in France, which requires investors to disclose their exposure to both transition and physical risk.  Noteworthy reports from previous years' reporting include analysis by French sovereign wealth fund Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites (FRR) and insurance company Allianz France, which both integrate physical risk analysis by Four Twenty Seven. Read more about our reporting and analytics solutions for investors and banks. 
Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team at these upcoming events:

  • March 20-22 – Climate Leadership Conference, Baltimore, MD: Emilie Mazzacurati will speak about the evolving landscape of climate risk disclosure.
  • April 10-12 – RI Asia Japan, Tokyo, Japan: Hear Chief Development Officer, Frank Freitas, present on climate analytics for investors and meet with Emilie Mazzacurati at Four Twenty Seven's booth.
  • April 13-16  – APA National Planning Conference, San Francisco, CA: Director of Advisory Services, Yoon Kim, and Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, will speak on a panel called, "Beyond Vulnerability: Innovative Adaptation Planning."
  • April 23-25 – National Adaptation Forum, Madison, WI: Editor, Natalie Ambrosio, will present on local adaptive capacity from a private sector perspective and Yoon Kim will also join the convening.
  • April 29 - May 1  – Ceres Conference 2019, San Francisco, CA: The Four Twenty Seven team will join investors and corporations at this annual gathering.
  • June 11 - 12 – RI Europe, London, UK: Hear Emilie Mazzacurati present on climate risk in financial markets and meet with Director, Europe, Nathalie Borgeaud, at Four Twenty Seven's booth.
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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

Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks

January 15, 2019 – 427 REPORT. Building resilient communities and financial systems requires an understanding of climate risk exposure, but also of how prepared communities are to manage that risk. Understanding  the adaptive capacity, or ability to prepare for change and leverage opportunities, of the surrounding area can help businesses and investors determine how exposure to climate risk is likely to impact their assets and what the most strategic responses may be. This report outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for creating location-specific actionable assessments of adaptive capacity to inform business and investment decisions and catalyze resilience-building. 

Every investment, from real assets to corporate initiatives, is inextricably connected to its surrounding community. From flooded or damaged public infrastructure hindering employee and customer commutes to competition for water resources threatening business operations and urban heat reducing public health, the impacts of climate change on a community will impact the businesses and real estate investors based in that community. Thus, evaluating how acute and chronic physical climate hazards will affect local communities and communities’ responses enables investors and corporations to assess the full extent of the risks they face.

This report, Assessing Local Adaptive Capacity to Understand Corporate and Financial Climate Risks, outlines Four Twenty Seven’s framework for capturing a city’s adaptive capacity in a way that’s actionable for corporations seeking to understand the risk and resilience of their own facilities and for investors assessing risk in their portfolios or screening potential investments. The framework focuses on three main pillars: 1) awareness, 2) economic and financial characteristics, and 3) the quality of adaptation planning and implementation. It is informed by social sciences research, recent work by credit rating agencies, and our experience working directly with cities and investors.

Figure 2. After New York City subways were flooded during Hurricane Sandy, the New York MTA issued a catastrophe bond to obtain $200 million in insurance coverage, providing an important financial safety net for the city. Image from Wikimedia, by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

While a city’s adaptive capacity plays a key role in determining whether or not exposure to climate hazards will lead to damage and loss, cities are also likely to find that their resilience to climate impacts is an increasingly important factor in attracting business and financing, as adaptive capacity is more frequently integrated into credit ratings and screening processes. It is valuable for both cities to understand how investors are interpreting adaptive capacity and for investors to understand which factors of local adaptive capacity translate into increased resilience and reduced financial loss for their assets.

Key Takeaways

  • Corporate and real asset investments can be financially impacted by climate-driven weather events and chronic stresses, even with strong internal risk management systems in place, as climate events can affect the broader community and disrupt local infrastructure.
  • Adaptive capacity, the ability to adjust to potential damage and leverage opportunities, will influence how local jurisdictions and infrastructure are affected by climate-driven weather events.
  • Four Twenty Seven has developed a framework to assess the adaptive capacity of local jurisdictions to inform the private sector, examining a city’s awareness of climate impacts, economic characteristics, and adaptation planning efforts.
  • Understanding a local jurisdiction’s adaptive capacity provides opportunities to engage with decision-makers and relevant institutions to support local efforts to build resilience.

Download the report.

Newsletter: Japan’s Floods Halt Manufacturing

 

 

Four Twenty Seven’s monthly newsletter highlights recent developments in climate adaptation and resilience. This month, don’t miss our analysis of Japan’s recent flooding, a new report on economic climate risk in Australia, and context around other recent extreme weather events.

In Focus: Time and Tides – Flooding in Japan

Four Twenty Seven Analysis


Japan was the inundated by over 70 inches of rain in early July, resulting in significant loss of life and business disruptions. The clouds have since receded, leaving economic damage with long-term implications yet to be understood. However, estimates expect industry losses to be in the billions USD. Destruction was centered in Okayama and Hiroshima, driven by flooding and landslides. Japan’s floods were followed by a deadly heat wave, threatening those left without power after the storm and hindering recovery efforts.

Our latest analysis identifies companies affected by the event based on the location of vulnerable corporate facilities. We find several automobile manufacturers and electronic companies closed facilities during the flooding due to supply chain and labor disruptions. Understanding the ownership and operations of facilities in the damaged areas provides insight into what companies and industries may exhibit downturns in performance over the near term and be vulnerable to similar storms in the future.

Read our Analysis

Responding to Economic Climate Risk in Australia

New Four Twenty Seven report explores calls for increased climate risk disclosure in Australia


Our recent report, Responding to Economic Climate Risk in Australia, explores the connection between climate hazards and financial risks in Australia, sharing examples of corporate adaptation and investor engagement to build resilience.

Regulatory pressure and financial damage are necessitating an increase in physical climate risk disclosure in Australia. The nation’s predominant sectors are also the most exposed to drought and heat stress.

In exercising their own due diligence and assessing the exposure to physical climate risks in their portfolios, investors arm themselves with valuable information on corporate risk exposure which they can leverage to engage with companies around resilience.

Read the Report

Climate Change Contributes to Record Heat

Record-breaking heat around the world


Many areas around the world recently experienced their highest daytime temperatures and warmest lows. These records include Burlington, VT which had it’s warmest recorded low temperature of 80 degrees on July 2. Montreal had its highest recorded temperature of 97.9 degrees on July 2 when around 34 people died. Shannon Ireland set its all-time record of 89.6 degrees on June 28 and Quriyat Oman experienced the world’s warmest recorded low of 109 degrees on June 28.

Climate change threatens public health

Extreme heat threatens human health and economic productivity through impacts on the workforce, power grid and vulnerable populations. The Washington Post explains the connection between climate change and heat waves, and the social and economic challenges they bring. Strong and hot domes of high pressure have become more extreme as the climate warms, bringing heat waves. “While warm summer nights may seem less concerning than scorching afternoons” warmer nighttime lows are dangerous because the body has no respite, the New York Times reports.

Further Reading

Inside the Office at Four Twenty Seven

Four Twenty Seven in the Media

Upcoming Events

Join the Four Twenty Seven team in the field at these upcoming events:

  • July 18: Summer in the City CRS Investing Summit, New York, NY: Macroeconomic Risk Senior Analyst, Lindsay Ross, will speak on a panel about assessing physical climate risk in investment portfolios at this annual convening of the responsible investment community.
  • July 19: Webinar: Introduction to the California Heat Assessment Tool, 1:30-2:30pm PT: Director of Analytics, Nik Steinberg, will introduce the California Heat Assessment Tool (CHAT) to California public health officials during the CalBRACE webex meeting.
  • August 28-29: 3rd California Adaptation Forum, Sacramento, CA: Join Yoon Kim, Nik Steinberg, Kendall Starkman, Josh Turner, and Natalie Ambrosio at this biennial convening of adaptation professionals. Yoon will moderate a panel on the legal aspects of adaptation finance, Kendall will facilitate a panel on mobilizing climate adaptation through partnerships and Nik will present the California Heat Assessment Tool.
  • September 11: Building Transformational Community and Economic Resilience: San Francisco, CA: Four Twenty Seven will host a side event alongside the Global Climate Action Summit on Sept 11 to discuss the role of investors, businesses and governments in building climate resilience, both in California and abroad. Invite only.
  • September 12-14: PRI in Person, San Francisco, CA: Visit the Four Twenty Seven booth and meet with our team at this annual gathering of responsible investment industry leaders.
  • September 12-14: Global Climate Action Summit, San Francisco, CA: Join the Four Twenty Seven team at this convening of global climate adaptation experts meant to propel action around the Paris Agreement.

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