If this index heats up, is it a good thing?

Clouds and trees

KAI RYSSDAL: You've got your everyday market indicators. The old standbys like the Dow Jones Industrial Index, the S&P and the NASDAQ Composite. Well, if you're tired of those, here's a brand spanking new one for you: The UBS Global Warming Index. The London-based UBS Investment Bank launched the first climate change-related index today, as Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.


SARAH GARDNER: UBS is touting its Global Warming Index as a way for businesses to hedge their exposure to the uncertainties of climate change. But it's really just a clever way to brand what is essentially an index of weather futures

The GWI will be based on weather futures contracts currently traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. As temperatures in selected cities go up or down, so will the value of the index. And investors can essentially bet on the index's direction.

The Exchange's Felix Carabello says weather affects a third of our GDP. Weather futures offer companies some shelter from a storm.

FELIX CARABELLO: For many years, businesses have expressed that there's nothing that they could have done about volatility and temperature risk. And now that the means are available, now Wall Street is expecting companies to go ahead and manage that weather risk.

Companies already trading in weather derivatives include reinsurers, hedge funds, banks and energy companies. The market is now worth more than $45 billion.

Compared to stocks, of course, that's a raindrop in a downpour, but Carabello believes investing in weather has a lot of potential.

CARABELLO: We're beginning to see more conservative power companies and natural gas companies who actually get it. And they're now beginning to execute some of their hedging programs.

It should be noted that one big trader in weather derivatives market isn't playing in that market anymore. That would be Enron.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.

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