The scale of global warming has been laid bare by the effect of the summer’s heatwave on the Arctic.
Greenland's main glacier – the largest ice sheet outside of Antarctica – lost a staggering 11 billion tons of ice on one day in July, releasing enough water to fill 4.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.1 Around 200 billion tons of Greenland’s ice melted during July, or three times the usual monthly average for the summer.
The heatwave also caused an unprecedented level of forest fires in the Artic regions of Canada, Alaska and Russia, decimating 3.3 million hectares of land, an area bigger than Belgium. 2The Arctic is more vulnerable to global warming than anywhere else on earth, as temperature rises are absorbed by the ice rather than the ocean, causing massive melting and rising sea levels.
July itself was recorded as the hottest month in recorded history, with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in Europe setting heat records in many countries. Global temperatures were almost one degree Celsius above the 20th Century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).3
The Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries in 2015, aims to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less above pre-industrial levels by 2100 or sooner. However, the 1.5 degree lower boundary is set to be broken by 2030 unless the world can quickly become carbon neutral, according to a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.4
Unfortunately, global carbon emissions continue to rise, with a record 33.1 billion tons of fossil fuel- related CO2released into the atmosphere last year, according to the International Energy Agency. 5 Burning coal was found to be responsible for 0.3 degrees of the 1 degree rise average rise in world temperatures since the industrial era began in the 18th century.
“Climate risk is hard to gauge and, therefore, is most likely grossly underestimated in investment portfolios,” says Chris Berkouwer, Portfolio Manager with Robeco Global Stars Equities. “The least you can do is to be aware how your portfolio’s environmental footprint looks like, in particular which companies contribute most in terms of carbon emissions.”
“Most importantly, there should be a strategy in place showing how the portfolio can be steered towards a ‘below 1.5 degree’ scenario. The market is clearly shifting away from companies with profit models that are very prone to rising CO2 taxes and carbon prices, trading at discounts steeper than ever.”
“In other words, there is a clear preference emerging for companies that are either actively providing solutions to the carbon problem, or just run no (physical) climate risk at all. Our strong preference lies with companies that have (bridging) technologies in place to facilitate the transition to a low carbon world.”