Heading for a warmer world: investing in a changing climate

In the end, the Republican Convention got away with only a minor dousing from hurricane Isaac as it careered to the West through Louisiana and Arkansas. Even there Isaac did relatively limited damage of approximately US$2bn, at least compared with Hurricane Katrina's US$42bn.1 But the memory of hurricane Katrina still casts an important influence on attitudes towards extreme weather.

In the end, the Republican Convention got away with only a minor dousing from hurricane Isaac as it careered to the West through Louisiana and Arkansas. Even there Isaac did relatively limited damage of approximately £2bn, at least compared with Hurricane Katrina's $42bn1. But the memory of hurricane Katrina still casts an important influence on attitudes towards extreme weather.

 
Among those who cite Katrina’s disastrous impact as a catalyst for changing their thinking about the environmental agenda was Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s former CEO. He argued that we should all view the environmental agenda ‘as Katrina in slow-motion’.2 Of course not everyone saw hurricane Katrina this way. At the time, the links between climate change and extreme weather were hotly disputed even  within the scientific community, but roll the clock forward to 2012 and there is now overwhelming evidence that  the climate has warmed over the past few decades, that it is continuing to warm and that the dominant influence is man-made.
 
In fact, the litany of weather-related records that have been set in 2012 is pretty overwhelming. The UK experienced the wettest June on record and the UK Met Office recently confirmed that 2012 summer was the UK’s wettest in 100 years3 - in itself no mean feat! If anything, the scene has been even more dramatic elsewhere. 3,200 heat records were broken in the US in June, making the first six months of 2012 the hottest since records began4. Since then of course the situation has got steadily worse with a brutal drought reported to have destroyed 45% of the corn and 35% of the soya bean crop5. July was the warmest month in the US since national records began in 18956. NASA confirmed that, globally, July was the 329th consecutive month in which the temperature exceeded the 20th Century average7. And finally, we now know that Arctic sea ice is at its lowest extent since satellites first began monitoring the area over 30 years ago8.
 
And still climate change is not recognised by significant parts of the US Republican party. Mitt Romney in his energy plan does not mention climate change9 and is proposing to strip the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases. But irrespective of the manoeuvrings of the Republicans, it is clear that the world is already beginning to face a serious challenge to adapt to a changed and still changing climate. Professor Bob Watson, one of the UK Government’s scientific advisors has said that he believes we are already heading for a world that is at least 3°C warmer than today10. This is the view that we take in our investment strategy which now includes a significant focus on climate adaptation.
 
This view feeds into how we think markets are likely to evolve, and the demand that we anticipate for products and services that help companies, communities and countries to adapt to climate change. Climate change remains somewhat unpredictable and it is difficult to anticipate with confidence how it will affect the market success of any individual company, but we are increasingly looking to include companies that offer solutions to the challenges of a changed climate. For example, among the areas we have looked at and feature in the fund include:
- Increasing demand for services from companies involved in modelling and measuring environmental change such as Telvent, part of Schneider Electric;
- Engineering consultants that advise on, and help implement, new corporate and public-sector strategies aimed at making infrastructure and operations more resilient such as Tetra-Tech and Arcadis;
- Companies that seek to improve the productivity of agricultural systems such as Trimble Navigation Systems which has a business helping farmers use expensive agricultural inputs more efficiently; and,
- Companies involved in supporting or reinforcing critical infrastructure such as the US company Quanta Services, which is involved in building and maintaining electricity transmission and distribution systems.
 
Clearly these are still early days in understanding how companies, communities and countries might best adapt to climate change. We believe that demand for solutions to the damaging impacts of a changing climate will continue to increase and that the time is right to position our fund to support robust solutions to these challenges and to benefit our investors.
 
 
2 Lee Scott, ‘Twenty First Century Leadership’, 24 October 2005
7 Ibid
seb beloe

Topics: edie
Tags: | drought | extreme weather | Food & drink | Infrastructure | investors | met office | weather
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