If Stuart Kirk had been a nondescript hedge-fund manager when he gave a speech questioning the financial consequences of climate change, it wouldn’t have attracted half as much controversy. But Kirk’s job title was head of responsible investments at HSBC Holdings Plc’s asset-management unit. That changes everything.
Kirk created a social-media storm last week after saying investors don’t need to worry about climate risk, and regulators were creating too much work for him and his team on the topic. HSBC Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn said the comments, made at a conference hosted by the Financial Times, don’t represent the views of the bank’s senior management. The FT reported on Sunday that Kirk has since been suspended.
The argument put forward was that the financial impact of climate change is probably either negligible or baked into asset prices already. Further out, humankind would adapt to the climate threat: Economies will grow and share prices rise as they had in the past.