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The Financial Impact of Climate Change

Royal Roads University

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Short Course Description

This four-week course introduces participants to the financial risks and impacts associated with climate change. Participants will explore a range of risk pathways that link climate and economic systems, including financial impacts associated with:

• physical risks related to direct and indirect exposure to climate hazards in the value chain;
• transition risks arising from abrupt transitions to a low-carbon economy;
• civil liability and litigation risks;
• systemic risks transmitted throughout the economy;

Upon completion of the course, participants will have a foundational understanding of the relationship between climate change and the economy. Participants will develop their ability to identify exposure and vulnerability to climate-related financial risks within their own organizations—critical groundwork for effective planning and decision-making for mitigation and adaptation.

As an introductory course, this course is suited to those with little or no previous experience in climate-related finance or economics. However, a basic understanding of climate science is presumed.

Course Modules

Module 1: Physical Risks

Physical risks arise when climate-related hazards (extreme weather events, wildfire, sea-level rise, etc.) interact with vulnerable human and natural systems.  When those risks materialize, they can have a range of financial impacts on an organization, including (for example):  direct costs for restoration and repair, lost sales revenues, declining consumer demand, and increased financing and insurance costs. In this module, we’ll use case study examples to explore the physical risks of climate change for private and public organizations in the face of a range of potential climate hazards.  We’ll explore both direct physical risks (i.e., those related to an organization’s own vulnerabilities) and indirect risks (i.e., those that materialize elsewhere in an organization’s value chain, such as with its suppliers, transportation infrastructure, consumers, etc.)

Module 2: Transition Risks

Module 2 focuses on so-called “transition risks”—risks arising from the process of transitioning (possibly rapidly) to a low-carbon economy in response to climate change.  Transition risks can arise from changes in policy, technology, and market conditions.  The financial risks of transition include increased input prices and operating costs, abrupt changes to asset values, and deterioration of competitiveness and market share. In this module, we’ll apply a range of policy, technology and market scenarios to uncover the transition risk exposure of some sample organizations.

Module 3: Civil Liability

Module 3 explores systemic risks—risks that impact entire economies.  Besides the scope of the potential impacts, one of the characteristics of systemic risk is that it is difficult—if not impossible—to diversify against the risk.  So, even organizations that otherwise have relatively low exposure to physical and transition climate risks are likely to be impacted, should the systemic risks materialize. In this module, we’ll examine three inter-related systemic risks:  financial stability; macro-economic stability (e.g., GDP, price levels, unemployment, interest rates); and, public budgetary failure.  We’ll explore how these three system-level risks interact with each other, and with the physical and transition risks identified in Modules 1 – 2.

Module 4: Systemic Risks

Module 4 examines the challenges of quantifying financial risk given the complex dynamic nature of the climate-economy system, and explores how underpricing risk can result in decision-making that is, at best, sub-optimal, and at worse, potentially catastrophic. Unlike the risks normally encountered by an organization, climate risks are characterized by a higher probability of extreme impacts that are not only financial, but also existential. When financial models fail to account for the likelihood of extreme values, climate change risk will be underpriced.  As a result, decision-makers (governments, businesses, households) may make less-than-optimal choices that can exacerbate, rather than mitigate, the climate crisis (for example, by delaying or watering down action). In this module, we’ll explore the complex dynamic nature of climate and economies, and consider various models for decision-making under deep uncertainty.

Course Outline

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Course Design Statements

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Biography picture for Todd Thexton

Todd Thexton

Todd Thexton is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the School of Business at Royal Roads University. Todd teaches in areas of Environmental Economics and Sustainability, and has been actively involved in designing business programs that focus on sustainable development. He is an active advocate for climate action in the Royal Roads community. Todd has a lengthy work history in the public and non-profit sectors. He holds a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Applied Environment Economics.