Climate deniers faced another massive debunking of their flimsy claims in last Tuesday’s release of a white paper by global financial giant Deutsche Bank (DB) entitled Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments. DB Climate Change Advisors (DBCCA – a unit of the Frankfurt-based bank’s Asset Management Division), seeks to settle the public debate by squarely confronting the “determined assault on the climate findings accepted by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community”. According to Mark Fulton, DB’s Global Head of Climate Change research, “The paper’s clear conclusion is that … human-made climate change is already happening and is a serious long-term threat.”
Deutsche Bank’s motives are both pragmatic and opportunistic: DB has bet on climate change mitigation and alternative energy, which require shifting from our old energy ways. Underscoring its discontent with America’s laggard approach, Deutsche Bank announced last month it was pulling its alternative energy investments out of the US, and turning to Western Europe and China, whose policies confront climate change more robustly. “You just throw your hands up and say … we’re going to take our money elsewhere,” said Kevin Parker, DB’s Global Head of Asset Management, who oversees nearly $700 billion in funds, with $6 to $7 billion directed to climate change products. The US is “asleep at the wheel on climate change, asleep at the wheel on job growth, asleep at the wheel on this industrial revolution taking place in the energy industry,” Parker told Reuters, referring to Washington’s inability to pass climate-change legislation and establish other alternative energy tax incentives.
DB has timed its white paper’s release impeccably, given public rhetoric that insists global warming (a) is not happening; (b) if it is happening, humans are not responsible; or (c) if it is happening and humans are responsible, we don’t need to act to stop it. Examples persist: on Friday, Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Europe’s largest airline, Ryanair, denied the existence of global warming in an expletive-filled interview with the Irish Independent. But a recent New Yorker report on climate denial funding by the Koch brothers, and follow-up coverage, breathes wind into the sails of the case for addressing climate change.
The DBCCA report seeks to clear the air by systematically dismantling climate skeptics’ assertions with arguments grounded in science. DBCCA called upon the Columbia Climate Center at the Earth Institute of Columbia University “to examine as many as possible of the major skeptic claims in the light of the latest peer reviewed scientific literature and to weigh the arguments of each side in the balance.” The white paper also refers to the recent State of the Climate 2009 report, prepared by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which analyzed 30 climate variables and concluded that the Earth is indeed warming, with the past decade the warmest on record.
In addition to the white paper, DBCCA posts a “Carbon Counter” in Times Square that provides real-time estimates of the metric tons of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. DBCCA also collaborates with the Columbia Climate Center to monitor global climate policies. The computer model for the Global Climate Change Policy Tracker calculates the impacts on carbon emissions of 270 major climate policies, then aggregates them at country, regional, and global levels. The Climate Tracker then assigns a risk rating to 109 countries, states, and regions based on “key government mandates and supporting policy frameworks.” This mapping exercise shows where investors might achieve the best risk-adjusted returns in climate change investment opportunities throughout the world: Germany, Spain, Italy, and China, according to Kevin Parker.
Too bad the US lags so far behind not only on climate policy, but also investment and job development. While countries around the world are sweating to outpace each other on the global track toward a new economy, the United States seems happy to sit in the locker room and pretend that such a competition does not exist. “The US hasn’t even entered the race yet” for a clean-energy economy, Parker said. This is both stupid and sad.