Global investors want government action on climate change

Global investors say climate change is a threat and want government action to combat it, even as a plurality says the effort will hurt corporate profits.

Dissenting from a consensus in Asia and Europe, almost two- thirds of U.S. investors say climate change is a minor danger or “no real threat,” according to the first Quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll. In Asia, 61 percent say higher global temperatures are a major problem, and 56 percent in Europe agree.

The differences underscore tensions surfacing as almost 200 countries consider climate policies and work to craft a treaty to control greenhouse-gas emissions. The negotiations will culminate in a December gathering in Copenhagen.

“Perhaps the most worrying element is the sheer unpredictability of this,” said Heath Dacre, who works for an investment bank in Hong Kong. “We all know that markets do not react well to uncertainty.”

Nations must react to the threat, Dacre said. “The cost, both economic and in human terms, will be devastating” otherwise, he said.

In contrast, U.S. investors such as Ted Madaj of Schaumburg, Illinois, expressed doubts about the need for action and concern about the impact on earnings.

“We have had the coolest summer in my life so far this year, and we have to rush?” said Madaj, 54, a portfolio manager. “Someone in government ought to take a step back and think. What government action helps corporate profits?”

Of those polled worldwide, 48 percent say climate change is a major threat, 28 percent call it minor and 21 percent say it isn’t a real problem.

Government Action

The first Quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll is a survey of investors and analysts on six continents. It is based on interviews from July 14 to July 17 with a random sample of 1,076 Bloomberg subscribers, who represent leading decision makers in markets, finance and economics.

Governments are doing too little to act on climate change, according to 47 percent of those in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus-or-minus three percentage points for the full sample.

Forty-two percent predict efforts to reduce global warming will have an adverse impact on corporate profitability in their country. In the U.S., 58 percent say profits would be hurt, compared with 33 percent among Europeans and 22 percent among Asians.

“In the U.S., very few see that the opportunity to build new businesses and create new jobs in transforming to green manufacturing could pay off for those engaged in those markets,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, which conducted the poll. “Asian respondents are three times as likely as their U.S. counterparts to forecast opportunities for profit.”

Obama, Bush

President Barack Obama has said climate change will create an economic boon of jobs and investment in alternative energy sources. His predecessor was the major contributor to the U.S. doubts about global warming and the economic costs of combating it, said Chris Davies, a U.K. member of the European Parliament.

“U.S. opinion has been shaped by eight years of leadership by former President George W. Bush, who was openly skeptical about climate change,” said Davies, who speaks on environment issues for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, a bloc of lawmakers in the parliament. “The Obama administration is a different kettle of fish entirely, and attitudes will change.”

Bush, who supported voluntary emissions cuts and market- based incentives to spur new, low-emitting technologies, opposed a government-mandated limit on greenhouse gases on the grounds that it would cost jobs and hurt the economy.

U.S. Role

The U.S., the top worldwide greenhouse-gas emitter per capita, is trying to play a central role in efforts to meet the December deadline imposed by the United Nations for a treaty calling for action from both rich and poor nations. At the same time, Obama is fighting at home to win congressional passage of a mandatory U.S. cap on emissions contributing to global warming.

In Europe and Asia, Bloomberg users are “more concerned about their governments taking too little action,” Selzer said. “In the U.S., the common response is fear government will take too much action.”

Source: Bloomberg

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