Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less
World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Experts are worried that COVID-19, a primarily respiratory and airway disease, could have permanent effects on lungs, inhibiting the ability for divers to continue diving. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.

Read More Show Less