Climate Cast: History illuminates future climate change; Investors embrace CC for profits

Every Thursday MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit for “Climate Cast” on MPR News Stations to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences that we’re seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.

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These days it seems like we are witnessing climate changes unfold right before our very eyes.

It’s not our imagination.

The nature of our seasons is changing. Spring blooms come earlier. Summer is more humid with a documented increase in extreme localized flash flood events…and more frequent droughts. Fall lingers longer. Lakes freeze up later. Winters are trending shorter and noticeably, measurably milder. New plants are able to thrive in Minnesota’s milder climate.

We’re all living witnesses to rapid climate changes in our lifetime. This is no longer your grandparents “Minnesota.”

In 2013 at MPR we’re devoting more coverage to the science behind and the growing effects of our changing climate in Minnesota and around the globe.

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You can hear me discuss the week’s top climate stories in our new “Climate Cast” every Thursday morning at 9:50am with Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit.

Climate Cast for March 14th, 2013

Our planet went through a dramatic rise in greenhouse gases like this one about 55 million years ago, when carbon levels rose sharply. On Thursday’s Climate Cast, Kerri Miller and MPR News’ Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner talked about research into that ancient warming period and what it might mean for our future. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation:

History Illuminates future climate changes:

We know studying history can teach us about our future.

We know climate chages have happend in the past. What will happen if the earth warms +7 to +14 degrees? Our climate already did that 55-million years ago, and we know some of the results.

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Here’s a great piece from Smithsonian on what we might expect as out climate continues to warm in the coming decades.

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In a relatively short time, global emissions of carbon dioxide increased massively. Through the greenhouse effect, they raised temperatures around the planet by an average of 7 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit; they also changed the chemistry of the oceans, triggering a surge in acidity that may have led to mass extinctions among marine life. Overall, during this era of rapid change, global sea levels may have risen by as much as 65 feet.

Reading this, you could be forgiven if you assume we’re talking about a scenario related to the present-day climate crisis. But the previous paragraph actually refers to a 20,000-year-long period of warming that occurred 55 million years ago, an event scientists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (or PETM for short). Scott Wing, a paleobiologist at the Natural History Museum who has studied the PETM for more than 20 years, says, “If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s essentially what we’re doing right now.”

As we embark on an unprecedented experiment with the Earth’s atmosphere and climate, the PETM is suddenly a hot topic among scientists in many disparate fields. “It’s an event that a lot of people are interested in, because it is the best example we have of a really sudden global warming connected to a large release of carbon,” Wing says.

Investors Embrace Climate Chang for Profits:

Still think climate change isn’t real?

Follow the money.

Many investment firms are now making plays that a hotter planet will mean profits for some sectors.

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Image: Getty Images

It’s an accpetance of what we now see as demonstrable fact… that the global climate is changing. Not so much cynical, as a logical. As governments struggle to deal with climate change policy, emissions continue. There is already a ceertain amont of warming loaded into the current increase in atmospheric greenhouse gasses. And as more “tipping points” arrive, the rate of warming may accelerate.

Bloomberg has an interesting piece on who is poised to capitalize on a warmer planet. Here’s an edited excerpt.

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Now the smart money is taking another approach: Working under the assumption that climate change is inevitable, Wall Street firms are investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter.

Betting on the failure of global efforts to contain warming may seem cynical, but it’s increasingly logical. Fifteen years after the Kyoto Protocol to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries was reached, the world is still without a comprehensive pact binding all emitters to deal with the issue.

The Biggest Short

“Climate risk is something people are paying more and more attention to,” said Barney Schauble, managing partner at Nephila Advisors, the firm’s U.S. arm. “More volatile weather creates more risk and more appetite to protect against that risk.”

One form of extreme weather — drought — is helping spur business at Water Asset Management LLC. The New York hedge fund, which has about $400 million under management, buys water rights and makes private equity and stock-market investments in water- treatment companies.

“Not enough people are thinking long term of (water) as an asset that is worthy of ownership,” said Water Asset Management Chief Operating Officer Marc Robert. “Climate change for us is a driver.”

Climate Cast resources:

Want to know more about climate change? Here are few quick links to credible climate change sources.

-Read the Minnesota Public Radio primer on Climate Change

-NOAA NCDC’s “State of the Climate” report

-AMS Statement on Climate Change

-NASA key evidence of climate change

-Great summary of Modern Day Climate Change from SUNY-Suffolk

-Minnesota Climate Working Group climate change resources

-Mark Seeley’s Weather Talk

-Common climate change myths

-Climate change in the news from Climate Central

-More coverage from The Yale Forum on Climate Change and Media

Paul Huttner

  • Peter Mizla

    profits may be made for now- but considering the hugely disruptive influence of climate change- the whole system will no longer be inclined to look for profits but for survivability in a climate gone mad.