The reality of climate change is beginning to spook investors.

Look offshore for more serious talk. Global elites recently concluded a World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in which Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and thus a Very Serious Person, warned that climate change, not debt or austerity, would be the greatest economic challenge of the 21st century. Future generations would be “roasted, toasted, fried, and grilled,” she warned. Until this speech, the IMF had been content to leave climate change discussions to international environmental groups.

The reality of climate change is beginning to spook investors. As climate change influences investor risk, investors are beginning the long ugly process of grappling with the fact that fossil fuels are becoming stranded assets – assets worth less in the market than they are on balance sheets, due to changes in market conditions. One estimate has 55 percent of portfolios exposed to risk of becoming stranded assets, either by investing in fossil fuels or high risk businesses. That’s a lot of money to lose in the transition to a clean energy economy.

President Obama has framed climate action as a choice between jobs and environment. That frame is entirely wrong.

The choice is between an economy teetering from disaster to disaster, and one in which smart investments in mitigation and adaptation are made.

Perhaps the biggest mistake made by Very Serious People to date has been in framing climate as yet another environmental issue. Environmentalism can never address climate change; the transformation of a global economy from a fossil-fueled one to a sustainable one powered by renewable energy is beyond the scope of any green organization, no matter how big, to address. It’s good to see climate change being taken seriously by quintessential inside-the-Beltway types who usually rank “jobs and the economy” far above “environmentalism.” The fact that it’s taken so long does not bode well for humanity’s ability to adapt.

Daily Kos on the environment and the economy, advice for Obama on the State of the Union


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