Jan 24, 2019

Monetizing climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The storylines dominating climate change news are usually doom and gloom, but corporate America sees some new ways to integrate a warmer world into its business models.

Driving the news: That conclusion was gleaned from disclosures from more than 7,000 companies worldwide (1,800 in the U.S.) that were collected by CDP, a London-based nonprofit that asks companies to report their environmental impact.

"Many of those that filed reports with CDP said they believe climate change can bolster demand for their products," Bloomberg's Christopher Flavelle reports:

  • "[M]ore people will get sick. 'As the climate changes, there will be expanded markets for products for tropical and weather related diseases including waterborne illness,' wrote Merck & Co."
  • "More disasters will make iPhones even more vital to people’s lives, Apple predicted."

Axios health care editor Sam Baker rummaged through the reports and found that climate change could be big business for pharma:

  • AbbVie: "Climate change may create a greater need for existing or even new products … higher temperatures and drought conditions are becoming extreme. … Our immunology product line could see an increase in sales as a result."
  • Eli Lilly: "These risks may drive an increased demand for ... our diabetes products."
  • Pfizer: "There could be an increased demand for products related to diseases impacted by climate change."

These financial benefits are, of course, anomalies — most impact will be dire. Axios' Ben Geman points out that companies like Coca-Cola, which worries about water shortages, have long realized the risks to their operations.

  • And a number of companies — including tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook — for years have been increasing clean energy procurement and making emissions-cutting plans and goals.

Why it matters, from Axios science editor Andrew Freedman: Polling indicates that Americans are already recognizing the impacts of global warming in their own backyards, and the CDP disclosures make me think about what might happen once we start to factor climate change into our spending decisions.

  • Intel is worried about water availability for chip production, while reinsurance giants have long worried that extreme weather events from climate change could threaten their bottom line. 

What we're watching: The companies' reports show expected climate-change expenses that could become so big and detrimental that they provoke a real sea change in corporate America: More companies turning to governments and lobbying for policies reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus has just hit 3,900, per Johns Hopkins data.

Details: Tuesday night's grim milestone came hours after President Trump said it's "going to be a very painful two weeks," with projections indicating the novel coronavirus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place. "They are going to be facing a war zone," he said of medical workers.

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The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 858,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 Tuesday night, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 857,957 — Total deaths: 42,139 — Total recoveries: 178,091.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 188,547 — Total deaths: 3,899 — Total recoveries: 7,068.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. Coronavirus in custody: Inmates in all U.S. federal prisons are set to enter a 14-day quarantine on April 1. A federal judge on Tuesday ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 10 detained immigrants who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in confinement.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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