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Fri, 2013-03-22 05:00Bill Hewitt
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Excerpt from Bill Hewitt's A Newer World: The Insurance Industry’s Response to Climate Change

The following is excerpted from A Newer World: Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis by Bill Hewitt.  It is taken from Chapter 8, “A Resilient Future: Adaptation, Education, Law, and Lifestyle.”  The analysis of the insurance industry’s response to climate change below does not reflect the latest information such as the fact that Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $28.2 billion in insured losses and approximately $65 billion in economic losses across the US, Caribbean, Bahamas and Canada.

The Insurance Industry’s Response

One industry that knows what is coming is insurance. We looked at insurance in Chapter 5, noting how fully convinced all the leaders in the industry are of climate change’s impacts, now and for the future, and how committed they are to managing those risks through pushing for policy to meet the crisis head-on and by promoting measures to effectively adapt to the inevitable stresses on human populations and infrastructure that are at hand. The Insurance Information Institute cites one study on hurricanes that indicates that as wind speeds increase over the next couple of decades, property insurance losses will increase as well — by 30 to 40 percent. Seven of the ten most costly hurricanes in U.S. history occurred from August 2004 to October 2005, including Katrina, which caused losses of $41 billion. If the predictions of more-intense storms bear out, with the attendant increases in property loss, then Katrina will be dwarfed in the future, especially if hurricanes zero in on major cities in the United States like Miami or New York. The Big Apple had a near miss with disaster in late August 2011 with Hurricane Irene.

Fri, 2010-12-10 11:10Bill Hewitt
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PART TWO: The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

(Cont’d from Part 1) As far as the credibility of the U.S. and Canada in international climate negotiations, the Sierra Club’s Kate Colarulli thinks that continued tar sands oil production and consumption hurts both countries badly.  Canada’s reputation is particularly poor in this context.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program, feels the same way.  Canada, in her view, has been completely discredited at the table as a direct consequence of the tar sands.

In Cancún, Canada has been an extremely visible target because of the tar sands.  Protesters there have made the salient point that Canada is dragging its feet on robust greenhouse gas reduction targets because of their desire to continue and radically expand the tar sands extraction.

Canada was also being tarred in Cancún – pun intended – by being the recipient of three “Fossil of the Day” awards, as voted by over 400 international organizations.  Canada was similarly dishonored at the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties for “…years of delay, obstruction and total inaction.”

Thu, 2010-12-09 11:24Bill Hewitt
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The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

America is addicted to oil,” said the arch-environmentalist and fervent renewable energy advocate George W. Bush in his State of the Union address in 2006.  Good thought.  His successor, Barack Obama, has actually acted on that perception, though, and worked to reduce America’s reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.  He and his administration have negotiated a long-term agreement to significantly increase gas mileage; issued a directive to radically improve the environmental performance of federal buildings and vehicles; and designated a large portion of the economic stimulus package for green initiatives.  Obama said in March that “…for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.”

Looming over the border in Canada, however, is the specter of the tar sands.  Production of crude oil from the tar sands is tracking at 1.5 million barrels a day for 2010.  Of this, over a million barrels is exported to the U.S.  The environmental and public health impacts of the extraction, processing and transportation of tar sands have been well documented and reported.  These are concerns that have been expressed by environmental groups in North America and Europe, but now the economic and security implications of increasing tar sands development are being addressed by key members of the U.S. Congress as well as analysts working on the critical interface between energy, environment and security.

Barring Tar Sands Oil 

Congressman Henry Waxman, the outgoing chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the driving force behind Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [PDF].  Section 526 prohibits federal agencies from procuring alternative fuel unless its life cycle GHG emissions are less than those for conventional petroleum sources.  This provision set off alarm bells in Canada.  The Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Wilson, wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates [PDF] within a couple of months of EISA becoming law to say that “Canada would not want to see an expansive interpretation of Section 526, which would then include commercially-available fuel made in part from oil derived from Canadian oil sands.” 

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