"A giant evil; a great demon of our day"
That's how Steven Croft, the bishop of Sheffield, described the threat of climate change recently. Now, as an atheist, I've always struggled with religious descriptions of "evil" and "demons". But if anything fits that bill, it's a manmade phenomenon which is already causing flooding, drought and death. A phenomenon which will hit those least responsible for it the hardest.
Theologically-inspired analogies aside, the real meat of recent Church of England pronouncements on climate change—inspired in large part by devastating and almost unprecedented flooding in parts of England—is in renewed soul searching about how the church should act.As The Guardian reports, not only will the church be lobbying politicians on keeping to their promises of 80% carbon reductions by 2050, but it is also floating the idea of divesting from companies which fail to take the climate threat seriously:
"Make no mistake, we reserve the final option of disinvesting from those particular companies who resist change," said the Rev Canon Professor Richard Burridge, adding that the church had sold its £3.8m stake in the controversial mining company Vedanta four years ago following concerns about its human rights record.
Admittedly, divestment is currently being considered as a last resort, with the church preferring outreach and engagement with the corporate world as a means to influencing behavior. But to those who think divestment and exposure to climate risk are not major issues for financial markets, it's worth thinking about just a few recent headlines.
Pension funds are increasingly pushing for disclosure on climate risk (Forbes).
HSBC says $20bn of coal assets at risk (RenewEconomy).
Jeremy Grantham says renewables "will" replace fossil fuels, questions wisdom of investing in fossil fuel exploration (CleanTechnica).
Foundations with $1.8bn vow divestment from fossil fuels (Bloomberg).
Fossil fuels are not going to go down without a fight. But with the very real prospect of electricity replacing oil for much of our transportation fuel, and efficiency and renewables squeezing the traditional utility model hard, it doesn't take divine insight to start seeing that forward-thinking investors would be wise to factor in climate exposure to every investment they make.
You call it a "great demon". I call it a bear of a political, social, economic and scientific challenge. But we're both on the same side when it comes to our goal. Let's get fighting.