Climate risks are entering the calculus for utility investment strategies.
Beneath the crystal-blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, coral reefs once vibrant with color are turning white and dying. Their demise, evident for more than a decade, is disquieting not only because it shows the disruption of a fragile ecosystem and the decline of some truly splendid snorkeling destinations, but for its potential effect on U.S. environmental policy.
What’s killing the corals is not entirely understood, but researchers have identified temperature changes as a culprit. Temperatures are rising globally, in the oceans as well as the atmosphere. But more troublesome for the corals, climate changes are disrupting ocean currents that keep Caribbean water temperatures relatively stable and cool—and incidentally, keep Northern Europe warm, according to a data from various research groups, including NASA.
In May 2006, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service added two types of Caribbean coral (elkhorn and staghorn) to the list of threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Except for Puerto Rico and a few other islands, most of the Caribbean Sea lies outside U.S. jurisdiction. But the corals’ plight could affect many U.S. companies nonetheless.