e-book The Civilized Market: Corporations, Conviction and the Real Business of Capitalism

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Finally he returned to the story. No decision had been made to execute a bootleg turn away from hydrocarbons.


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Far from feeling worried, Exxon saw an opportunity. Fracking is a very electricity-intensive method of extracting hydrocarbons. By using solar energy for just a portion of its operations in Texas, Exxon could save on electricity costs and keep more cash. It could profit by turning renewable power back into the hydrocarbon power it existed to replace.

Absent a coherent strategy, opportunists can step in and benefit in wily ways from the shifting landscape. Tax-supported renewables in Texas take coal plants offline, but they also support oil extraction. Technology advances, but not the system underneath. Faced with this volatile and chaotic situation, the system does what it does best: It searches out profits in the short term.

How Big Business Is Hedging Against the Apocalypse

Unlike almost every other future event, climate change is percent certain to happen. But traders are compensated on their quarterly or yearly performance, not on their distant foresight. Practically no one in the financial system is directly incentivized in the near term to worry about the biggest risk conceivable.

The simplest response is to keep investing in companies that, like Exxon, conduct their business as usual while adapting where they can.

Another response is to forget about the immediate term and go long on more sustainable bets. Al Gore, for instance, whiles away his hours running a climate-focused fund called Generation Investment Management. Other strategies display more cleverness. Electric vehicles and green power grids require, for their batteries, valuable minerals and metals.

Spot prices for nickel and cobalt fluctuate by double-digit percentages on commodities exchanges, while investors eye shares in lithium mines. As the earth becomes hotter, the air becomes less dense. In Australia, an agribusiness conglomerate waits for family farms to fold for lack of rainfall, then considers buying their land at a discount. The Harvard endowment has bought up vineyards in California, acquiring their water rights in the midst of a long drought. By the middle of the century, the climate of the Southeastern United States will most likely be tropical, no longer ideal for peach trees but perfect for the Aedes aegypti species of disease-bearing mosquito.

In Greenland, mining companies buy previously useless land rights in order to extract the minerals that melting ice will shortly expose. In addition to uranium and molybdenum — a silvery metal used in steel alloys — the miners expect to find rich reserves of oil, which they fully expect to burn.

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Schemers prowl these pages. A former C. An Israeli entrepreneur goes long on desalination plants some powered by coal, Funk notes. What is odd about many of these climate plays, which rely on such complex assumptions about the future, is how myopic they seem. They assume that the world will change around a stable, fixed point. American weather will curdle to such a degree that Tennessee will become an incubator for malaria, yet Wall Street banks and patent lawyers will saunter along as usual.

Rising oceans will submerge coastal financial centers beneath several feet of saltwater, yet commodities markets will pay top dollar for Greenlandic uranium. Taken individually, these assumptions sound dubious. Each successive year incinerates the temperature figures of the previous one, yet the stock market continues to break records.

An unsettling fact of Wall Street today is that some of the same people who accurately predicted the housing bubble are now describing another bubble, whose collapse will make the financial crisis of look mild.

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Perhaps the most famous is Jeremy Grantham, a founder of the Boston-based asset-management firm G. We are, he says, in the midst of a historic period of mispricing. Because the global economy depends on hydrocarbons, practically every asset in the world relates in some way to oil and gas. Grantham believes hydrocarbons will be priced, or regulated, into submission. In the last few years, Grantham has committed all but 2 percent of his personal fortune to funding projects — energy storage, pesticides, lightweight cars — that might help save us in the event of two degrees of warming.

Please share your general feedback. You can start or join in a discussion here. Visit emeraldpublishing. Abstract Executive Summary When FECS spins out of human intervention and regulatory control, then it can easily harm and constrain the markets as it happened on Black Friday of October , resulting in the Great Depression, and the September—October Financial Crisis, when some 17 mega global investment banks ran out of control and lost close to trillion US dollars in market capitalization. Please note you might not have access to this content.