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apple developer enterprise account for rent:Eyes in the sky: Investors reach for new tools to gauge climate change risk


LONDON - In the twilight years of past civilisations, astrologers would scour the heavens for signs of impending calamity. In an era where climate change is eroding age-old certainties, a new cast of characters is searching for answers in the sky. A small but growing network of asset managers, academics, start-up entrepreneurs and campaigners are working to harness an armada of recently deployed satellites to better predict the economic impact of global warming. While climate scientists caution that the discipline is in its infancy, advocates say the early findings have one over-riding virtue: dynamiting any remaining complacency about the scale of the disruption that lies in store. "This is the missing piece of the jigsaw," said Michael Hugman, a portfolio manager at London-based asset manager Ninety One, where the fixed-income team runs $44.3 billion of mostly emerging market debt. "What we can now do is concretely put hard numbers on what climate change means for countries over the next 30 years. This is a whole different way of thinking about risk and return." While investors have long used satellites to track specific metrics such as activity in shopping mall car parks or iron ore shipments, the new approach -- known as "spatial finance" -- is far more sweeping in scope. It works like this: analysts acquire satellite imagery and other datasets, filter them using algorithms and use the results to project how climate change could affect anything from a single factory to an entire economy. Unlike standard risk models largely based on historical data, spatial finance aims to anticipate how rising heat could usher in a radically different future. Ben Caldecott, director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme, a research unit at the University of Oxford, likens the depth of potential insights to the revolution in biology unlocked by the sequencing of the human genome. "We've had this massive explosion in Earth observation capabilities that means we can see what's going on on every point of planet Earth, and we can interpret it and use that for financial analysis," said Caldecott, who has launched a spatial finance initiative to widen the discipline's applications. "What is so transformative is adding another dimension to the information you have as an analyst." Asset managers specialising in emerging market debt have been among the first to explore the possibilities, recognising, for example, that more intense hurricanes or heatwaves can upend the finances of countries dependent on agricultural exports. The results can be sobering. Hugman decided to model how climate change might affect a hypothetical debt restructuring plan for Argentina, which is struggling to pay its creditors. He focused on two of the many possible risks -- the prospect of more ambitious global moves to curb deforestation, which could hit farm exports, and more frequent droughts, using numbers based on spatial techniques. The result: what had looked on paper like a viable plan to manage the country's debt was no longer sustainable. GREEN SWANS Environmentalists hope such findings can in turn be used to arm governments in Latin America, Africa and Asia with the data they need to identify the most promising investments to cushion populations from climate impacts. "What it gives you is a much richer way of engaging with governments," said Susanne Schmitt, nature and spatial finance lead at the World Wildlife Fund, an advocacy group. Working with Hugman and other asset managers, Schmitt aims to leverage spatial finance to mobilise investment in climate-friendly projects such as preserving mangrove swamps or forests. Others wonder whether developing ever-more specific levels of analysis might prove a double-edged sword, enabling smart investors to offload potentially doomed assets to climate-naive counterparts rather than help the vulnerable. "The big question for me is, what happens when particular companies, assets and entire countries are identified as being at risk?" said Kate Mackenzie, a Sydney-based consultant who has advised companies and regulators on climate change. "Are those assets sold to markets and buyers who have the same visibility of that risk?" Even before the coronavirus pandemic gave investors a crash course in the fragility of the global economy, concerns were growing over the far bigger dangers posed by the climate crisis. In January, the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements (BIS) published a report warning that markets were ill-equipped to spot so-called "green swans",

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