Financial market response to extreme events indicating climatic change
Department of Economics, University of San Francisco, USA
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Received: 1 May 2015
Revised: 13 April 2016
Published online: 25 May 2016
A variety of recent extreme climatic events are considered to be strong evidence that the climate is warming, but these incremental advances in certainty often seem ignored by non-scientists. I identify two unusual types of events that are considered to be evidence of climate change, announcements by NASA that the global annual average temperature has set a new record, and the sudden collapse of major polar ice shelves, and then conduct an event study to test whether news of these events changes investors' valuation of energy companies, a subset of firms whose future performance is closely tied to climate change. I find evidence that both classes of events have influenced energy stock prices since the 1990s, with record temperature announcements on average associated with negative returns and ice shelf collapses associated with positive returns. I identify a variety of plausible mechanisms that may be driving these differential responses, discuss implications for energy markets' views on long-term regulatory risk, and conclude that investors not only pay attention to scientifically significant climate events, but discriminate between signals carrying different information about the nature of climatic change.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2016