Throughout human history, the economy and the environment have been inexorably linked.

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Photo: Brazdil and Kotyza, 1995

Hunger Stones In Central Europe, people beginning in the 1100's have marked droughts by carving warnings and dates on rocks in the Rhine, Elba, and other major rivers.  These rocks are known as “hunger stones”.  Like ghosts from the past, these stones and their warnings are being revealed as a

record European drought combined with record heat reduces water levels to all-time recorded lows.[1] Some of the hunger stones’ messages include: “If you see me, weep”; “If you will again see this stone, so you will weep, so shallow the water was in the year 1417”; “Who once saw me,…

Oil has no answer for renewable energy, just as whale oil had no answer for kerosene.

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Apocalypse Numerous. Photo Credit: ABC News.

This blog post continues my series on environmental risks and how to make portfolios environmentally resilient.  You can find my previous posts here. The Environment as the Ultimate Rhizomatic Risk® Most investors, no matter how sophisticated, have portfolios that are shot through with environmental risk.  What's worse, environmental risks frequently

make what were thought to be uncorrelated assets, correlated. I call this phenomenon Rhizomatic Risk® because the assets are connected in an unseen way, the same way the root system of a rhizome is connected underground.  You can read more about Rhizomatic Risk® here. The California Fires Besides the devastation…

The ratings agencies can, and will, act in capricious ways.

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Be careful what you wish for.

Just a quick update on two events from yesterday that relate to some of my writing on risk management: S&P downgraded $2.27 billion of outstanding Build Illinois Bonds from AA- to BBB, and; AIG reported a $0.34/share loss when the consensus estimate was for a $0.06/share gain. Build Illinois Bond Downgrade

The State of Illinois is in dire financial straights, with a BBB- credit rating.  It has issued over $2 billion in Build Illinois Bonds, which carve out sales tax revenues, and had been rated AA-.  Under S&P's new rating criteria, which caps the ratings of priority-lien tax revenue debt,…

There are very clear paths of transmission from natural disasters to economic disasters.

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San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906.

Although there are many examples of how environmental shocks have affected local communities, there are fewer examples of how these shocks are transmitted to the macro economy. One of the clearest examples of an environmental shock leading to profound global instability is from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Chart One: Timeline of the San Francisco Earthquake and Subsequent Financial Panic[1]   On April 18, 1906, San Francisco was hit with an 8.3 magnitude earthquake.  While the earthquake caused many buildings to collapse, it was the subsequent fires that did the most damage.  By the time the fires had burned out,…

While climate shocks tend to get the headlines, changes in climate trends are more damaging. 

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This is what a correlated portfolio looks like under environmental risk.

Environmental risk is rising.  As I write this, Hurricane Michael has just laid waste to a 200-mile swath of the Florida panhandle. Environmental Risks - The UN Report On October 8, 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“UNIPCC”)  issued a report which was commissioned at

the December 2015 Paris Agreement.  The objective of the report was the evaluate the effects of global warming of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.  The report was prepared by 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries and cites more than 6,000 scientific references.[1] The UNIPCC press release tell us what is already…