Quantcast

U.S. Insurance Companies Underwrite Fossil Fuels, Deny Homeowners

Climate

U.S. insurance companies are trying to have it both ways on climate change, underwriting and investing in fossil fuel companies but raising premiums or denying coverage to homeowners impacted by increased floods and wildfires, Jacques Leslie wrote in an Op-Ed for The Los Angeles Times Tuesday.


Leslie pointed to a December 2017 study by California's Department of Insurance which showed that instances in which insurance companies refused to renew coverage to homeowners in fire-prone counties increased by about 15 percent between 2015 and 2016.

"Insurers are increasingly using computer models to assess the risk of fires for individual homes and deciding that homes in some areas face too high a risk," Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a press release about the study.

Jones recommended legislation that would ensure Californians living in high-fire-risk areas could continue to insure their homes.

Meanwhile, a 2014 Ceres study found that the investment portfolios of the 40 largest U.S. insurance companies contained a higher proportion of oil and gas bonds than average, Leslie wrote.

The attitude of U.S. insurance companies is particularly striking because, internationally, insurers are waking up to the real risks posed by fossil fuels.

An insurance scorecard published in November 2017 by Unfriend Coal, which Leslie cited, found that 15 insurance companies are divesting $20 billion from coal companies and declining to underwrite coal projects.

"The shift of insurers away from coal is now gathering momentum and may be approaching a tipping point," the scorecard's executive summary said.

However, that shift hasn't reached the U.S. "So far, no American insurer has taken meaningful action on coal and climate change, and even industry giants such as Berkshire Hathaway, AIG and Liberty Mutual have remained completely silent about the catastrophic climate risks affecting their clients," the summary continued.

Leslie suggested the U.S. insurance industry could pay financially for its selective denial about fossil-fuel risks. If climate-related lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, such as the suit brought by Oakland and San Francisco against Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, succeed, then insurers might have to pay up on behalf of their clients.

The choices of insurance companies are important, because they have the power to stop new or existing fossil fuel projects by denying coverage.

"Although some large coal companies might be able to self-insure if their mining operations lost coverage, others would be forced to close," Leslie wrote.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Wesley Martinez Da Costa / EyeEm / Getty Images

By David R. Montgomery

Would it sound too good to be true if I was to say that there was a simple, profitable and underused agricultural method to help feed everybody, cool the planet, and revitalize rural America? I used to think so, until I started visiting farmers who are restoring fertility to their land, stashing a lot of carbon in their soil, and returning healthy profitability to family farms. Now I've come to see how restoring soil health would prove as good for farmers and rural economies as it would for the environment.

Read More Show Less
skaman306 / Moment / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Radish (Raphanus sativus) is a cruciferous vegetable that originated in Asia and Europe (1Trusted Source).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Tinnakorn Jorruang / iStock / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

The budding research on cannabidiol, or CBD, attracts a great deal of interest in the agricultural field.

Read More Show Less
Oksana Khodakovskaia / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a tree native to China that's prized for its sweet, citrus-like fruit.

Read More Show Less

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new numbers that show vaping-related lung illnesses are continuing to grow across the country, as the number of fatalities has climbed to 33 and hospitalizations have reached 1,479 cases, according to a CDC update.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
During the summer, the Arctic tundra is usually a thriving habitat for mammals such as the Arctic fox. Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Reports of extreme snowfall in the Arctic might seem encouraging, given that the region is rapidly warming due to human-driven climate change. According to a new study, however, the snow could actually pose a major threat to the normal reproductive cycles of Arctic wildlife.

Read More Show Less
Vegan rice and garbanzo beans meals. Ella Olsson / Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

One common concern about vegan diets is whether they provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs.

Many claim that a whole-food, plant-based diet easily meets all the daily nutrient requirements.

Read More Show Less
A fracking well looms over a residential area of Liberty, Colorado on Aug. 19. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

A new multiyear study found that people living or working within 2,000 feet, or nearly half a mile, of a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drill site may be at a heightened risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals, according to research released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)

Read More Show Less