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Wake Up Call 

Insurance industry weighs in on climate change

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We've all heard the arguments for and against the existence of human-caused climate change. Let's look at climate change from the viewpoint of one of the most conservative institutions on the planet: insurance companies.

Articles and analyses from and about the insurance industry's response to climate change paint a clear picture: it's here. In 2013, the Smithsonian Institution published an essay titled "How the Insurance Industry Is Dealing with Climate Change." The subtitle spoke volumes: "Rising chance of extreme weather is forcing insurance companies to adjust their models as they take on more risk".

In 2014, the trade publication Insurance Journal ran an article with the headline "Insurance Industry Is Leader on Climate Change, Report Says." The report mentioned was a white paper published by the Urban Land Institute, urging "real estate sector and government planners to take an active role in climate-change adaptation."

The same year, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed article, "How the Insurance Industry Sees Climate Change," author Eugene Linden recalled an interview 20 years ago with Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, on the threat climate change posed to the insurance industry: "It is clear that climate change could bankrupt the industry," Linden wrote. The article also cited nine class-action lawsuits filed by insurance company Illinois Farmers against cities and counties for failing to take steps to prevent losses related to climate change–related extreme storms in 2013.

"The Farmers suit tells the world that regardless of what the politicians and pundits say about climate change," Linden wrote, "an insurer is going to try to avoid paying for losses that could have been foreseen and prevented."

When apolitical, bottom-line-focused insurance companies see climate-change trouble ahead, it's time for doubters to face the fact that the climate change is real and we need to respond to the threat we all face.

Chris Wilder lives in Cloverdale and is a former contractor at Bay Area U.S. Department of Energy labs who currently working as a tutor.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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