Global Warming and Preparing for the Big One

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you ever want to stir up a hornets' nest, just start a conversation about global warming. This topic has all kinds of emotionally charged nuances that include political polarities and emotional extremes.

Recently, I received an email from my city's Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, with an invitation to attend a city-wide event that is being billed as "Preparing for the Big One." I live on the West Coast and for years our area has been preparing for severe earthquakes and massive floods.

We may hear about differing opinions on the causes of global warming, but as this video points out, the effects are real and persistent.

Although climate change and global warming haven't worsened in the past few years, experts say a plateau doesn't mean it won't suddenly get worse. Superstorms, drought in one area and torrential downpours in adjoining areas are happening annually and temperatures worldwide are still rising.

Reducing the flow of the greenhouse gases that spur global warming could prevent up to three million premature deaths annually by the year 2100, a new study suggests.

Researcher Jason West, an atmospheric scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues have "devised a global model to simulate likely future scenarios of the interaction between mortality and air pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter."

Up to 700,000 premature deaths annually could be prevented by the year 2030, two-thirds of which would be in China, if we would reduce those tiny pollutants suspended in air, the report says.

By 2050, that figure jumps up to between 800,000 and 1.8 million preventable deaths annually. "By 2100, between 1.4 million and 3 million premature deaths annually could be averted," West states.

"We found reducing greenhouse gases could lead to a pretty striking reduction in air pollutants, and thus a pretty significant impact on lives saved," West told LiveScience.

Germany has been making steady progress in reducing its carbon footprint and becoming more comfortable with the need for sustainable energy sources that cause less greenhouse gasses.

One of Germany's corporate leaders involved in the preparation for the ongoing impact of global warming is Siemens AG ( SI), whose shares hit a new 52-week high of $122.45 after the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy decisions were released last Wednesday.

Siemens is an electronics and electrical engineering company that operates in the energy, health care, industry and infrastructure businesses worldwide.

The company also offers products, services and solutions to energy providers for the generation and transmission of power; and to industrial oil and gas companies for the extraction, conversion and transportation of oil and gas.

It even provides commercial finance services, such as equipment finance, leasing, rental and related financing solutions to various organizations. Siemens' financing solutions comprise debt financing, equity participations, financial advisory, investment management services, including services related to pension assets to its institutional clients.

Siemens also is in the business of managing and offering mutual funds to the general public as well as providing industrial insurance and private finance solutions. The company was founded in 1847 and is based in Munich, Germany.

As I studied its highly informative Web site, I noticed that one of its biggest energy initiatives includes converting tidal power into electricity and "blazing the trail for offshore wind" power.

Siemens reminds me a great deal of its rival General Electric ( GE). The biggest difference appears to be that Siemens' financial base is strong enough to sustain all its industrial and financial businesses through all kinds of economic and catastrophic conditions.

In all fairness to GE, it is also focused on environmental concerns and solutions. It competes in the business of alternative energy equipment and has progressed in designing more fuel-efficient engines.

GE has an entire page of its Web site dedicated to what it calls "ecomagination," which translates to GE's imaginative efforts to focus on the topic of ecology and environmental issues.

Siemens announced last Wednesday the appointment of a new CFO effective immediately, who will concentrate responsibilities within the Managing Board as of Oct. 1.

At its meeting last Wednesday, Siemens' Supervisory Board appointed Ralf Thomas (age 52) CFO of Siemens AG. Thomas was previously CFO at the company's Industry Sector.

"With Ralf Thomas, we are gaining an experienced CFO who is very familiar with circumstances at Siemens through his many years of working at the company," said the Chairman of the Siemens Supervisory Board Gerhard Cromme.

Also that Wednesday, Siemens announced the co-CEO of business software company SAP AG ( SAP) will join Siemens' board of directors. Jim Hagemann Snabe, 47, who remains the top executive at SAP AG, has said he plans to leave that post next year for a seat on that company's board of directors.

Siemens' shares have been trading at a ridiculously low price-to-earning-to-growth, or PEG, ratio of just 0.30, and pays a 2.41% dividend, which represents only 43% of Siemens earnings. With a financial war chest of nearly $13 billion in total cash (as of June 30) the company could afford to raise the dividend.

If global warming increases, so will the company's probability of sales growth. Its engineering and infrastructure division will have ample opportunity to shore up threatened areas of many nations who will be directly impacted by rising sea levels and the possibility of destructive storm surges.

The following one-year chart reflects investors and analysts' confidence in the future of Siemens' earnings power and increasing returns on invested capital.

SI Chart SI data by YCharts

An American company that should find increasing sources of new business as a direct result of the potential catastrophic impact of global warming is Clean Harbors ( CLH).

As its name implies, it provides environmental, energy and industrial services in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and internationally. Super storms and storm surges lead to more contracts for CLH.

The company's Field Services segment provides various environmental cleanup services on customer sites or other locations on a scheduled or emergency response basis. These services include tank cleaning, decontamination, remediation and spill cleanup.

Clean Harbors has a lucrative division that's involved with used oil and oil products recycling, water filtration and water treatment services.

With its purchase late last year of competitor Safety-Kleen, CLH now has the largest used oil and hazardous waste-collection capabilities in North America. Its environmental services provide a comprehensive array of sustainable and cost-effective environmental solutions.

Last Monday, Clean Harbors announced that it had acquired Evergreen Oil out of bankruptcy through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.

Evergreen Oil is a California-based environmental services company that is one of the state's largest collectors of waste oil and runs the only re-refinery in the state. Clean Harbors is funding the $60 million transaction through available cash on its balance sheet.

In the announcement, Clean Harbors' management pointed out that the acquisition of Evergreen Oil is beneficial to the company in a number of ways.

It expands Clean Harbors' geographic footprint in re-refining to include coverage in the Western U.S. -- complementing its Indiana facility in the Midwest and Breslau facility in Eastern Canada;

It provides Clean Harbors with the second-largest collector of waste oil in California; and

It provides Clean Harbors with a number of valuable ancillary waste assets, including a permitted Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility, or TSDF.

Analysts will have to go back to their number-crunching machines to see how the acquisition might impact CLH's EPS estimates for the current year. Analysts had been anticipating close to a 13% increase in EPS and an impressive 60% increase in revenue.

Concerning the Evergreen Oil purchase, Clean Harbors' CEO explained, "We believe that we are purchasing this asset at a favorable price for our shareholders. While we plan to invest some capital into the re-refinery to enhance its layout and productivity, the plant is relatively new, with major portions of it having been rebuilt following a fire at the facility in 2011."

Here's a one-year look at how Clean Harbors' stock has performed. You'll see that its return on invested capital hasn't been able to pay off yet, but its quarterly revenue per share numbers have improved nicely.

CLH Chart CLH data by YCharts

Whether global warming is your cup of tea or not really doesn't matter. What matters is that environmental disasters are occurring with unfortunate regularity and super-destructive storms like Sandy and Katrina have given us examples of the devastation they cause.

Droughts, wildfires, floods and normal atrophy will continue to make rebuilding and infrastructure replacements a bigger opportunity for companies like Siemens, GE and Clean Harbors.

If there are multiple "Big Ones" in the months and years ahead, there's no telling how astronomical the clean-up and restoration costs may be. It'll be a nightmare for the people affected and the insurance companies that insure them.

Siemens, General Electric and Clean Harbors are sensible investment themes, just in case. Here's hoping for the best while we all prepare for the worst!

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Marc Courtenay is the founder and owner of Advanced Investor Technologies, LLC, as well as the publisher and editor of www.ChecktheMarkets.com.

Courtenay holds a Master's of Science degree in Psychology from California Polytechnic State University, and is a former senior vice-president of Investments for two major brokerage firms. He's been a fiercely independent investment "investigator" and a consulting contributor to the investment publishing world for over 30 years. In addition to his role as an investment publisher and analyst, he serves as a marketing consultant to the investment media industries.

In his role as a financial editor, he specializes in unique investment strategies, overlooked stock investments, energy and resource companies, precious metals, emerging growth companies, the prudent use of option strategies,real estate related opportunities,wealth preservation, money-saving offers, risk management, tax issues, as well as "the psychology of investing". Because of his training and background in Clinical Counseling and Psychology, he enjoys writing about investor behavior, the herd mentality, how to turn investment mistakes into investment breakthroughs and the stock market's behavioral trends and patterns.


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