Looking catastrophe in the eye

Denial of climate change is deep and it is wide.

We woke up this morning to news of record-breaking tornadoes touching down across a wide swath of the American Midwest, flattening entire townships and leaving behind multiple trails of devastation.

Reading the mainstream media reports, the focus was all on the damage; very little was said about the cause.

Again, a case of focusing on symptoms rather than on the motivating problems.  The news media focuses on the “what” but ignores the “why.”

And they are even further away from what’s most important: looking for solutions.

Senator Bernie Sanders

Yesterday, thanks to the ever-impressive leadership of Senator Bernie Sanders, representatives of the national and international insurance industry came together in Washington to discuss the business implications of climate change.

Co-sponsored by the Ceres Foundation, which has been working to bring business into the sustainable future fold, the meeting was unequivocal in its acknowledgement that climate change is here, it is real, and it must be dealt with head on, before it runs right over us like a tornado.

The reinsurance industry reps were pretty blunt.

“We need a national policy related to climate change and weather,” said Franklin Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America.

Pete Thomas of Willis Re, a global reinsurance broker, cited an alarming statistic: 4 out of 5 Americans now live in federally declared disaster areas.  “”Demographics and coastal urbanization are catastrophic force multipliers, making weather events increasingly costly,” he said.

In case you didn’t know, reinsurance companies are the ones that insure the insurers.

A difficult industry, in the age of climate change.

If I were an economist, I would be doing the math to figure out whether we are really coming out ahead as a society when we fight to pay less than $5 a gallon for oil.

What may seem cheap up front is often outrageously expensive in the long run.

Like eating cheap food laced with chemicals to keep costs down, to find yourself paying the exorbitant bills for chemotherapy in midlife.

It just doesn’t make sense.

There has never been a more important time to come forward and demand that government and industry work together to ensure (not insure!) our future.

Indiana Tornado, March 2, 2012

Let’s stop hiding our heads in the sand and pretending that everything will be all right–until the next tornado, hurricane, wildfire or drought rides roughshod over our house and town.

Sitting at home worrying is of no use at all.

If you want to be of use to your grandchildren and all future generations, you should be out on the frontlines, insisting that:

a) the media does its job as a watchdog and reports the whole story;

b) our elected representatives do their job and create policy aimed at saving lives by mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change; and

c) our fellow citizens get off their butts and start taking responsibility for our collective future.

Get going now, before “catastrophic force multipliers” blow us all away.

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9 Comments

  1. kenyatta2009

     /  March 3, 2012

    Reblogged this on A Little Local Color.

    Reply
  2. Unemployment in Europe is 11 percent, with Spain hit hardest with 23.3 percent unemployment, followed by Greece with 20 percent. 24.3 million people in the EU are out of work.

    The US unemployment rate is down to 8.3 percent, but the unemployment rate for young people between 16 and 24 is 16 percent. Manufacturing jobs once represented 50 percent of US employment, 20 years later only 10 percent. Unemployment of African-Americans is 13.6 percent, Washington, DC’s African-Americans unemployment rate is above 21 percent.

    That are the official numbers, hidden unemployment, underemployment, and employment at miserable working conditions and exploitative wages are not represented in any statistics — for good reason.

    So politicians of all colors call for or promise: To bring the jobs home from China and make the economy grow again. Which means: We want more CO2, more industrial pollution with all kind of chemicals, more poisonous waste.

    Who dares to call for a new paradigm, for austerity and a drastically changed lifestyle based on subsistence and sustainability, when mainstream society is happily twittering, facebooking, texting on their new iPhones, watching TV, or playing computer games.

    Mainstream society has opted long ago for chemotherapy and the public doesn’t care what a few lucid minds are discussing on blogs that will never shop up on any Google search.

    Reply
  3. I got an interesting (canned) call yesterday. It said “we are the 99%” and urged me to call my local representative, who is, they said, bought and paid for by Wall Street, to push him to support some new legislation to protect us from the financiers.

    Now how would my calling this person make any difference, I wanted to ask them. Read your own lips! He is supported by wall street, gets money and lots of perks, including future gigs in the industry if the voters get him out. Why should he care? Millions of us called against the bailout and they went ahead anyway.

    I we are to make an impact, we gotta stop urging each other to do over and over what has not worked in the first place. To wit:

    a) insists the media does its job as a watchdog and reports the whole story;
    Insist? How the hell can I insist? What diff will my insisting make? I could just as well try to insist that Niagara Falls flow backwards.

    b) our elected representatives do their job and create policy aimed at saving lives by mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change; and
    If the race track is mismanaged, with piles of horsemanure everywhere, you do go talk to the horses in their stables? What do you figure that will accomplish?

    c) our fellow citizens get off their butts and start taking responsibility for our collective future.
    How do you get them off their butts? Maybe the Jensenites should forget about blowing up dams and start going house to house cutting people’s cable. Woo! TV terrorism! I can see the headlines…. desperate TV addicts running through the streets looking for their fix! Hide!

    Foofles…

    Reply
  4. Paul Klinkman

     /  March 4, 2012

    Ms. Browdy De Hernandez,

    I’m sorry to tell you that government and “industry” aren’t working together, nor are they about to work together.

    The government is glad to give energy research subsidies to Halliburton, except Halliburton has no interest whatsoever in damaging its oil business. Nor do highly pressured employees and tenure track professors tend to have lots of good ideas to spare. Ideas take time and human energy.

    There’s no such thing as merit-based innovation, where the little guy who has real ideas gets research funding. Modern product development is all built around the little guy coming up with the first million dollars (honk!) and then the government will chip in the second million.

    Some day the climate change movement will delve into the on-the-ground reality of developing new solar products, so that things really work.

    Reply
  5. Leavergirl,

    Sarcasm and rudeness are not helpful.

    Please tell us what you think should be done.

    Reply
  6. Paul Klinkman

     /  March 4, 2012

    Hey leavergirl,

    I prefer to concentrate on what actions are likely to work.

    Yes, a letter to Congress has limited impact. 100 letters to Congress have an even more limited impact. The 100th letter has less impact because some staffer has already read your first letter, and your second letter.

    Voting has a limited impact. If you want, you can pack up your car/bike and drive over to a close state legislative race between a genuine political candidate and an utterly fake candidate, preferably in a small district in a lightly populated state, or to a Senate race in a small state. Then you can work all year for one candidate, possibly throwing that one election. As they say, vote early and often, but with your hands and with your mind. If you think politicians pay attention to voters, you should see how they would feel about large roaming packs of de-election volunteers.

    For that matter, at any time you can shape the focus of the next election in voters’ minds. Find out what the voters believe (especially if the truth is being badly faked) and do whatever is effective to change these false beliefs.

    Freedom of the press is limited to those who have a black and white laser printer and a long-necked stapler. You can put together hundreds or thousands of the 20 page booklets that people prefer to read, by printing 5 double sided pages in two column landscape orientation, stapling them in the middle and folding them. Pastel paper is good for an outside cover page. Keep the text friendly and practical.

    I feel that we eventually need to form our own closed-circle community economic systems that are designed to exclude all sorts of outsiders — no Mall-Warts, no chemically tortured Chinese workers. When we own our own jobs, we can’t be laid off without cause, and when we manufacture things that our own community needs, we’re not tempted to poison our consumers and workers with toxic chemicals. Assuming that some people have gambling addictions and need outside help, perhaps their houses can be co-owned so that they can’t legally borrow against the house without community consent.

    Personally, I want to create a business dedicated to having a solar research and development edge written into its articles of incorporation. Writing as one of the world’s most aggressive inventors, I assume that development problems are almost entirely the sole obstacle to inhibiting climate change. Invention isn’t the problem now. That part is mostly over as far as I see it, although there are always more improvements coming. Petroleum is, or should be, obsolete tomorrow morning. The petroleum companies just don’t know it yet. Far, far worse for us all, just about none of the climate change people get it either. If they got it, we’d win quickly.

    I’m a believer in the possibility of online forums that seek consensus while successfully excluding trolls and avoiding vote rigging. It would be hard work putting such a forum up, but if successful, we could hopefully have anonymous citizen government with no trolls. The power of an energized citizen government shouldn’t be underestimated. A citizen government with the people’s full trust is likely to vanquish any set of politicians.

    Reply
    • The comment of Mr. Klinkman is very helpful and I’m kind of jealous that I didn’t make it🙂

      Especially this paragraph caught my eye:
      “I feel that we eventually need to form our own closed-circle community economic systems that are designed to exclude all sorts of outsiders — no Mall-Warts, no chemically tortured Chinese workers. When we own our own jobs, we can’t be laid off without cause, and when we manufacture things that our own community needs, we’re not tempted to poison our consumers and workers with toxic chemicals. Assuming that some people have gambling addictions and need outside help, perhaps their houses can be co-owned so that they can’t legally borrow against the house without community consent.”

      The Transition Town movement is experimenting with new ways of social and economic organization and has to be supported by any possible means. The movement wants to create local self-sufficient communities with: Co-ops, jointly owned workshops, organic farming and gardening to supply the immediate neighborhood, time-banks, small local credit unions, eventually a local counter currency or local vouchers.

      Creating small, rather independent local economies and new independent networks of these initiatives is the most crucial part of the transition to a sustainable human (humane) society.

      Concerning my first comment I have to remind myself that whining and doomsday predictions don’t help anybody and that at least in this circle here the exchange of ideas, the discussion and the practical planning of projects, and mutual encouragement should have priority.

      Reply
      • Angie, thanks for the schoolmarmish slap on the wrist. Now how is that helpful exactly?

        Mato, you just stole my move!🙂 I wuz gonna showcase Mr. Klinkman’s fine, inspiring paragraph as well. What a well crafted and succint way of pointing out the direction which we clearly must take.

        A deliberation forum sans trolls is a great idea as well, and could easily begin in local communities, with simple software, or even without. Nicely done, Paul!

  7. You have identified a really interesting schism in the business world. Insurance (because of the nature of the business) takes a long term view of risk. For many other businesses, the horizon for risk planning is as far away as the maturity date of the options in the CEO’s remuneration package. The insurance industry is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change impacts on business.

    Of course, insurance premiums will go up, and the insurance industry is only trying to moderate what is inevitable. What is also inevitable is the insurance business’s interests in the long term viability of their business model. They probably want to preserve and extend their market penetration, and the holy grail for them is when any asset of size in the economy is insured for full value.

    Climate change threatens their business model, because their business either shrinks as premiums become unaffordable, or becomes unprofitable if they try and hold premiums down in the face of out-of-control risk.

    There’s a sad social dimension to all of this. Premiums will skyrocket as insurers price in climate risk. Those workers who have scrimped and saved to own their own home, or any other asset of value, will be the first to find increased premiums unaffordable. When the tornado, or bushfire, or cyclone, or flood, or hailstorm trashes their lives, they will be uninsured, and relegated to the trashheap of society.

    Reply

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