The latest climate study, released Tuesday, doesn't look at sea level rise, carbon counts, or government policy—at least not directly.
Instead, it takes a strictly capitalist approach. The study, by CDP, sent questionnaires to more than 200 of the largest global companies about their forecasts for how much money they're budgeting to lose to the effects of climate change.
Among the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Unilever, UBS, Nestle, Infosys, and Sony, 215 companies reported expectations to lose a cumulative $970 billion. Most of that, they expect, will come in the next five years.
Formerly known as the well-respected Carbon Disclosure Project, the CDP is part of a coalition of bankers, politicians, fund managers, and interest groups concerned about the risk that global warming poses to the global financial system. The report was first carried by Reuters.
Large companies don't often make such specific predictions further out than that. Who knows if those specific companies will even be around much longer?
Even at those levels, CDP Climate Director Nicolette Bartlett says most companies are barely beginning to assess the depth of climate-change impact. "Most companies still have a long way to go in terms of properly assessing climate risk," she says.
About half the companies said they consider the specific financial risks "likely to virtually certain," which may account for some of the diminished estimates that Bartlett expects.
The report could also undercount actual climate damages because it is based on figures companies are willing to release publicly, and doesn't include other losses that companies may hold closer to the vest.
The release of the study precedes an annual study released by the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures by the Group of 20 industrialized countries, which was due out on Wednesday.
Tesla Solar Roof
The companies also cited potential business opportunities from global warming including investments in renewable energy and growing demand for electric cars. Those opportunities amounted to $2.1 trillion, the respondents said. Even global oil companies that responded to the survey reported $140 billion of opportunities against $25 billion in risks.
The companies seem to be taking an optimistic approach to climate change, in the face of other studies that have shown that it will be cheaper to act to reduce the effects of global warming than it will be to adapt to them.