Al Gore on Climate Change Risk

Photograph by Chris Crisman/Redux

Do stock prices reflect the risks of climate change?
Investors need to examine the longer-term issues [and] integrate sustainability factors. There are very big problems that should cause all participants in markets to think long and hard about how those problems can be remedied. In hydrofracking for gas or oil in the state of Texas, for example, each new well requires 6 million gallons of water, and many of them are now active in counties that have extreme water shortages. The absence of a price on water carries the risk of misleading investors and CEOs into ignoring the value of water.

You’ve compared climate change risk to subprime mortgages?
“Subprime carbon assets” have an asserted value based on the assumption that it’s perfectly OK to put 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours. Actually it’s not. But just as with subprime mortgages, when the rating agencies [showed] clouded judgment and put AAA ratings on the securities, a lot of holders of carbon assets have been giving money to liars-for-hire to put out pseudoscientific reports that assert reality is not reality.

So oil and gas companies are today’s equivalent of subprime lenders?
The value of subprime mortgages was based on a false assumption. All of these carbon fuel reserves [are] based on a similarly absurd assumption that is being systematically reinforced by some—not all—of the holders of those assets, who are engaged in a systematic effort to convince markets and the public of a falsehood. — As told to Simon Clark