Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Climate Solutions Lab

Asset Revaluation and the Existential Politics of Climate Change

May 11, 2021

Jeff D. Colgan and co-authors Thomas N. Hale (University of Oxford) and Jessica F. Green (University of Toronto) recently published, "Asset Revaluation and the Existential Politics of Climate Change," which offers a dynamic theory of climate politics based on the present and future revaluation of assets. 

Climate politics can be understood as a contest between owners of assets that accelerate climate change, such as fossil fuel plants, and owners of assets vulnerable to climate change, like coastal property. To date, obstruction by "climate-forcing" asset holders has been a large barrier to effective climate policy. But as climate change and decarbonization policies proceed, holders of both climate-forcing and "climate-vulnerable" assets stand to lose some or even all of the value of their assets over time, and with them, the basis of their political power. This dynamic contest between opposing interests is likely to intensify in many sites of political contestation, from the subnational to transnational levels. As it does so, climate politics will become increasingly existential, potentially reshaping political alignments within and across countries. Such shifts may further undermine the LIO: as countries develop pro-climate policies at different speeds and magnitudes, they will have incentives to diverge from existing arrangements over trade and economic integration.