The Next Big Financial Crisis Could Be Triggered By Climate Change – But Central Banks Can Prevent It

In 2008, as big banks began failing across Wall Street and the housing and stock markets crashed, the nation saw how crucial financial regulation is for economic stability – and how quickly the consequences can cascade through the economy when regulators are asleep at the wheel.

Today, there’s another looming economic risk: climate change. Once again, how much it harms economies will depend a lot on how financial regulators and central banks react.

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

Climate change’s impact on economies isn’t always obvious. Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, identified a series of climate change-related risks in 2015 that could shake the financial system. The rising costs of extreme weather, lawsuits against companies that have contributed to climate change and the falling value of fossil fuel assets could all have an impact.

Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz agrees. In a recent interview, he argued that the impact of a sharp rise in carbon prices – which governments charge companies for emitting climate-warming greenhouse gases – could trigger another financial crisis, this time starting with the fossil fuel industry, its suppliers and the banks that finance them, which could spill over into the broader economy.

Our research as environmental economists and macroeconomists confirms that both the effects of climate change and some of the policies necessary to stop it could have important implications for financial stability, if preemptive measures are not undertaken. Public policies addressing, after years of delay, the fossil fuel emissions that are driving climate change could devalue energy companies and cause investments held by banks and pension funds to tank, as would abrupt changes in consumer habits.

The good news is that regulators have the ability to address these risks and clear the way to safely implement ambitious climate policy.

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Disclosure: This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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