Behind the climate curve: Why are leading finance journals so quiet on climate change?

The nexus between finance and climate change has over the last few years become a major policy issue. Further, a growing number of finance practitioners are engaging with the financial opportunities (financing renewables, green bonds etc.) and risks (‘stranded assets’, carbon bubble etc.) of climate change. However, the contents page of leading academic finance journals are suggestive that climate change does not have financial implications. In this short note we formally explore whether leading finance journals are engaging with the issues of climate finance and if not whether this is an issue specific to the discipline or an issue in business research more generally. Using established rankings of finance and business journals we undertake a content analysis of journal article coverage of climate and climate finance topics over the period Jan 1998 to April 2015. We find that the three ‘elite’ (first tier) finance journal have not engaged with climate issues at all. However, elite journals from management and marketing have also not engaged with climate issues. By ways of contrast elite journals from the accounting, economics, international business, and operations research have engaged with climate topics, though in some cases this is down to a single journal (in the case of economics it was the American Economic Review). We next explore the second tier finance journals and find that seven out of eighteen have published climate finance research but in only one case was this more than one paper (Journal of Banking and Finance). Further, the preponderance of the research has focused on carbon markets and not the broader issues of climate finance. We conclude by exploring the possible reasons why finance research is ‘behind the climate curve’ and what might be done to alleviate the situation.