Year 4, Month 12, Day 2: Just Tryin’ To Make A Livin’ And Doin’ The Best I Can

The Tampa Bay Times, on rising waters and insurance rates:

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly 40 real estate agents packed the sweltering conference room in downtown St. Petersburg this week to hear flood insurance expert Pete Travis describe the new — and expensive — world coming Oct. 1.

He didn’t pull any punches.

Many older homes in flood zones have long benefited from a big subsidy that kept flood insurance rates very low. Starting next month, those homeowners will typically see annual rates jump more than 20 percent, including a fee for a new reserve fund. A late payment could cost them their subsidy immediately.

If the owner sells the home, the buyer will lose the subsidy. That could, as in one scenario, raise a premium that had been $1,400 a year to $9,500.

Travis wasn’t hopeful of a congressional reprieve in the next couple of weeks.

“Have I demoralized everyone here?” he asked.

Concern about rising flood insurance rates — triggered by the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 — has been percolating for months. Now, just weeks before the law’s main provisions take effect, real estate agents and communities from Apollo Beach to Treasure Island are galvanizing, worried about falling property values, busted real estate sales and a crippling effect on the broader economy.

People gettin’ hammered, everywhere. November 21:

A phrase we’ve heard all too often from our conservative politicians is “nobody anticipated.” “Nobody” anticipated New Orleans’ crumbling levees in New Orleans, the environmental consequences of oil spills, or the fact that cutting public works funding results in failing infrastructure. And “nobody” anticipated the devastating floods which are becoming a fact of life for coastal Floridians.

“Nobody,” that is, except environmentalists, scientists, and insurance companies. That latter group, of course, depends on accurate predictions for its continued profitability. Unfortunately, when it comes to issues of climate, the Republican Party has now abandoned any attempts at fact-based policy.

Thanks to zealous Tea-Party politicians and their constituents, the measured predictions of insurance companies contemplating a climatically-transformed future no longer have any influence on Republican policy-making.

Apparently nobody anticipated that a political movement built on ideological opposition to science and expertise would bring skyrocketing expenses for homeowners facing the impacts of global climate change.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 22: I Promise The Check Is In The Mail

Wendy Koch (presumably no relation) writes in USA Today about the problems of insurance companies:

Most insurance companies do not have comprehensive strategies to cope with climate change despite mounting weather-related claims, says a report to be released Thursday.

Of 184 companies surveyed, only 23 had such strategies, and 13 of those that did were foreign-owned, according to report by Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit that promotes eco-minded business practices. The report says the most prepared tend to be the largest companies with scientists on staff and those that insure property rather than life or health.

Many companies “won’t talk about climate change” and if they do, they use “hedged” language to avoid the controversial issue of whether it’s man-made, says author Sharlene Leurig, senior manager of Ceres’ insurance program. She says the issue is less politically divisive in Europe, where insurers are often better prepared.

They’ll relinquish profitability rather than admit they were wrong. March 11:

The American insurance industry, unprepared for climate change? Given how much precision these folks bring to actuarial analysis, this suggests a systemic failure of impressive proportions — a notion borne out by the fact that those firms with on-staff scientists are much more likely to be developing and implementing strategies for coping with the ramifications of a runaway greenhouse effect.

The oft-circulated notion that climate science is “controversial” is an absurdity; global warming is at the center of a controversy not because scientists disagree, but because a single ideological bloc in American politics has decided to make it so. If insurance companies — the people who’ve turned the statistical measurement of risk into a profitable business — are shy about addressing the burgeoning climate crisis because it’s a politically contentious issue, this confirms that even in the corporate sector, ideology trumps common sense, and ignorance counts for more than data.

Warren Senders

Day 24: To The Local Murdoch

After reading Wade Norris’ excellent piece on insurance companies’ response to climate change, I thought I’d write to Boston’s own Murdoch-owned newspaper, the Herald. My challenge is to use short words and short sentences.

It’s easy to deny global warming. Just look out the window and point to the snow, right? Well, If that’s how to do it, then I can deny my baldness by pointing to my nose hairs. The facts about global climate change are pretty scary, and lots of people don’t want to believe it’s happening at all, while some don’t want to believe humans are causing it. But covering our eyes and saying “Does not!” is the response of a child, not a grown-up. Perhaps we should look instead at the response of companies like State Farm Insurance, which announced this week that it won’t issue or renew policies for buildings and structures on North Carolina’s barrier islands — because global heating is raising ocean levels and increasing the risk of catastrophic storms. It’s going to be harder to deny the climate crisis when it’s costing us hundreds of billions of dollars. State Farm gets it. When will the majority of Americans?

Warren Senders

Maybe they’ll print it because I made a funny joke ha ha he mentioned nose hairs ha ha!