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KBRA Releases ESG Research – Burning Season: An Examination of U.S. Drought and Wildfire Risk

·3-min read

Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA) releases research which examines the relationship between drought and wildfire risk in the United States, the cost of these types of natural disasters, and their implications (credit-related and otherwise) for state, local, and federal governments.

The Pacific Northwest is grappling with one of its worst wildfire seasons as fires—exacerbated by drought, extreme temperatures, and high winds—continue to rage across the region. California alone has seen over 8,136 fires ravage 3.75 million acres so far this year. This compares with 7,860 fires that destroyed 259,823 acres across the state in 2019. The 2020 wildfire season is notable not only for its widespread devastation or its timing during a pandemic, but also because some events are occurring in habitats that are not typically affected, such as across Joshua tree and Redwood forests in California. Climate experts warn that as climate change worsens, drought seasons are likely to grow longer, and wildfires more frequent, across some regions of the U.S.

Key Takeaways

  • Wildfire and drought risk are on the rise in certain regions, particularly in the western U.S., as the impact of climate change becomes more severe. KBRA believes the economic impact of rising climate change risks will become increasingly material to credit quality in high-risk areas.

  • We believe wildfire and drought risk have the potential to significantly undermine economic activity over the longer term, affecting population migration patterns, hindering access to essential services such as power, and limiting insurance capacity, among other concerns. The fires in California alone this year are estimated to have reduced U.S. GDP by an annualized 0.7 percentage points in the third quarter.

  • As environmental risks increase due to climate change, states and local governments that incorporate environmental risks such as wildfire and drought into their strategies and management processes will be viewed positively by KBRA.

Click here to view the report.

Related Publications

About KBRA and KBRA Europe

KBRA is a full-service credit rating agency registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as an NRSRO. In addition, KBRA is designated as a designated rating organization by the Ontario Securities Commission for issuers of asset-backed securities to file a short form prospectus or shelf prospectus. KBRA is also recognized by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners as a Credit Rating Provider and is a certified Credit Rating Agency (CRA) with the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). Kroll Bond Rating Agency Europe is registered with ESMA as a CRA. Kroll Bond Rating Agency Europe is located at 6-8 College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland.

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Emilie Nadler, Associate, ESG
+1 (646) 731-3386

Andrea Torres Villanueva, Associate, ESG
+1 (646) 731-1238

Pat Welch, Chief Credit Officer
+1 (646) 731-2481

Van Hesser, Senior Managing Director, Chief Strategist
+1 (646) 731-2305

Business Development Contact

William Baneky, Managing Director
+1 (646) 731-2409