Now here's an unexpected beneficiary of the building consensus regarding global warming: the plaintiffs' bar.
Known to its detractors as Trial Lawyers, Inc., the plaintiffs' bar makes serious bucks by launching mass tort and class action suits. The bigger the damages, the bigger the contingency fees, so high-profile harm is how these litigation firms make hay -- and it doesn't get much more high-profile than climate change.
Companies are potentially vulnerable to shareholder lawsuits if they either fail to properly disclose the risk of potential climate change regulations, or to demonstrate efforts to mitigate those risks. The Corporate Library, a governance watchdog, analyzed two dozen "carbon-intensive" companies in a recent study, and the results varied widely.
I was pretty surprised to see emitter-extraordinaire American Electric Power
Other companies earning high marks include Kimberly Clark
Two energy-services firms and one railroad shared a three-way tie for dead last. I would be curious to know what made Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Even if you're no fan of Al Gore, consider taking a few minutes to assess whether the "carbon-intensive" companies in your portfolio are one step ahead of the plaintiffs' bar. The alternative is to just hope your company has great lawyers.
Fool contributor Toby Shute cohabitates with a future lawyer and doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy doesn't cover climate-change issues, per se, but it does help to clear the air.