Climate Change-Related Natural Disasters Impact Short-Lived Assets and Interest Rates

Climate Change-Related Natural Disasters Impact Short-Lived Assets and Interest Rates

June 2, 20212 min read

For decades, scientists across the globe have warned about the effects of climate change. Given that these changes—global warming, rising sea levels—happen over time and that their disastrous results may not be obvious for decades, studying the effects of climate change on financial markets has posed a problem.

According to Christoph Herpfer, assistant professor of finance, Goizueta Business School, most of the existing literature that deals with the effect of climate change on financial markets considers “indefinitely lived assets,” such as owning stock or owning a home—assets that “don’t have an expiration date,” explained Herpfer. To evaluate the effect of climate change in the long run on these assets then requires discount models—ways to value something today based on what it could be worth decades from now.

Herpfer, a banking and corporate finance specialist, studies short-lived assets that, on average, expire after 4.5 years. Herpfer wondered if there could be “an alternative channel in which climate change already impacts companies today,” he explained. One that didn’t have to deal with all the “challenges associated with long run discount rates,” he added.

In “The rising tide lifts some interest rates: climate change, natural disasters, and loan pricing,” Herpfer and his colleagues—Ricardo Correa, deputy associate director, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Ai He, assistant professor of finance, University of South Carolina, and Ugur Lel, associate professor, Nalley Distinguished Chair in Finance, University of Georgia, Terry College of Business—consider this question by studying corporate borrowing costs. In 2020, the paper received the best paper award at the Boca Corporate Finance and Governance Conference.

The foursome had a novel idea: In recent years, there has been scientific consensus that climate change fuels natural disasters. So Herpfer and his fellow authors wondered if financial institutions took climate change-amplified natural disasters into account when pricing short-term loans. Their answer was, unequivocally, “yes.”

Their work and research is captured in a recent article in Emory Business - it's attached and well worth the read.

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Christoph Herpfer is an assistant professor of finance at Goizueta Business School. He is also a financial economist working at the intersection of banking, law, and accounting. Christoph is available to speak with media about this research - simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

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