Thursday, March 16, 2006

Canary in the Republican Mine

George W. Bush and the Republican party's reluctance to recognize global warming will be breached first by the people who will have to pay for it: The insurance industry.

From Inter Press Service, via Commondreams: States Calculate Global Warming Pricetag

WASHINGTON - The decision, taken by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, came during the same week that the world's biggest insurance broker, Marsh & McLennan, briefed its corporate clients, which include roughly 75 percent of the "Fortune 500" biggest companies, on the potential impact of global warming on their businesses.


These latest studies, as well another one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that found that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have reached levels that have not been seen on Earth for more than a million years, have lent credence to the notion that the Earth's climate is, as NASA's director of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, James Hansen, said last December, "nearing... a tipping point beyond which it will be impossible to avoid climate change with far-reaching undesirable consequences."

Some of those consequences are of particular concern to the insurance industry, which has been forced to pay out billions of dollars in recent years as a result of damages caused by the growing intensity in recent decades of hurricanes that are fueled by the warming waters of the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Indeed, last week's action by the state insurance commissioners came in the wake of devastating back-to-back hurricane seasons that caused a record 30 billion dollars in U.S. insured losses in 2004 and as much as 60 billion dollars in insured losses from Hurricane Katrina alone in 2005, which was also by far the costliest year in weather-related natural disasters on record, according to a recent study by the Munich Re Foundation.

Indeed, according to a December 2005 Ceres study, U.S. insurers have seen a 15-fold increase in insured losses from catastrophic weather events in the past three decades, increases that have far outstripped the growth in premiums, population and inflation over the same time period.

"It's becoming clearer that we are experiencing more frequent and more powerful weather events that pose huge challenges for the insurance industry,"
according to Tim Wager, director of Nebraska's Department of Insurance and co-chairman of the new task force set up by NAIC, which originally scheduled the initiative for approval at a meeting in New Orleans that was then cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina.

"The impacts are being felt on our coasts and in the interior U.S.," he added. "We're seeing all kinds of extreme weather in the Great Plains states, including drought, tornadoes, brushfires and severe hailstorms."

The cheerful weatherbots on the news won't say global warming, but it's why all this unusual weather is happening.

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