When portfolio theory can help environmental investment planning to reduce climate risk to future environmental outcomes—and when it cannot

Amy W. Ando, Jennifer Fraterrigo, Glenn R Guntenspergen, Aparna Howlader, Mindy Mallory, Jennifer H. Olker, Samuel Stickley

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Variability among climate change scenarios produces great uncertainty in what is the best allocation of resources among investments to protect environmental goods in the future. Previous research shows Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) can help optimize environmental investment targeting to reduce outcome uncertainty with minimal loss of expected level of environmental benefits, but no work has yet identified the types of cases for which MPT is most useful. This article assembles data on 26 different conservation cases in three distinct ecological settings and develops new metrics to evaluate how well MPT can reduce uncertainty in future outcomes of a set of environmental investments. We find MPT is broadly but not universally useful and works best when multiple investments have negatively correlated outcomes across climate scenarios; a second-best investment has expected value almost as good as the value in the best investment; or multiple investments have little uncertainty in ecological outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12596
JournalConservation Letters
Volume11
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank J. Milanovich and S. Matthews for sharing their data. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. This work was supported in part by NSF Grant #1339944, USDA-NIFA Hatch project numbers #ILLU-470-316, and #ILLU-470-363, and the U.S. Geological Survey Climate and Land Use Research and Development Program and Ecosystems Program.

Keywords

  • MPT
  • climate change
  • conservation
  • diversification
  • environmental investments
  • finance
  • portfolio
  • risk
  • uncertainty

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