This article discusses how climate change is affecting corporate America. After wildfires bankrupted a major utility, there’s concerns that more severe natural disasters will lead to economic devastation.
There’s a psychological threshold you cross when a threat you dismissed as vague and abstract suddenly becomes real. An existential threat is distant until it is much too close to ignore, then impossible to stop. That’s what happened to California utility PG&E in mid-January. Fire investigators found that its power lines and transformers started at least 17 of the 21 major state fires of 2017, and potentially several more in 2018 that turned into massive wildfires because of hot and dry conditions worsened by a warming climate. PG&E suddenly faced liabilities of $30 billion and 750 lawsuits; investors freaked and the utility, formerly beloved by hedge funds, declared bankruptcy. Its market value plummeted from $25 billion to less than $4 billion.