Jeremy Grantham tells investors to avoid chemical companies because of biological risks

Says issue as important as climate change for public.

Jeremy Grantham, the highly respected investor and climate philanthropist – the ‘G’ of $77bn investment management firm GMO – who is credited with predicting the housing bubble of 2007 and the dot-com bubble of 2000, has said investors should “categorically avoid chemical companies and fossil fuel companies”. Grantham, who funds the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and a similar body at Imperial College, has been speaking about the risks of fossil fuel investments for a number of years. But at a Grantham Research Institute lecture last week in London, he said he now thought that: “chemical companies will overtake climate change as an issue”.
The lecture, focused on investors, looked at why the world needs to decarbonise and the negative effects of rising global temperatures on different sectors, including the agriculture industry.
Grantham said the agriculture industry would also face other problems such as water availability, urban expansion and its potential contribution to a “toxic environment”.While, Grantham said that the benefit of the doubt was currently being given to chemical companies, he believed the issue would eventually overtake climate change with the public, saying: “there is something personal about what is happening to butterflies, bees and humans”. He quoted statistics such as a 75% loss of flying insects. Grantham said both oil and chemical companies were “fighting tooth and nail funding obfuscation programmes.” But unlike fossil fuel energy, which could be replaced by decarbonisation, he added that there was “not a fall back for chemicals”.
Grantham, who started his career as an economist with Shell, said for years Exxon scientists would warn on the danger of CO2 and then “a guy comes in and fires them all”.
“They have misrepresented and they should pay a high price,” said Grantham. “Investors should categorically avoid chemical and fossil fuel companies.”