Insurance and Climate Change column

Southern California City Asking Residents for Suggestions on Battling Climate Change

By | January 3, 2019

The city of Long Beach, Calif. is soliciting help from its citizens to come up with a plan to deal with climate change.

The coastal city of roughly half-a-million, which was an early adopter of the ban on plastic bags and was also quick to ban plastic straws, will hold a public workshop on Jan. 26 to discuss the proposed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

The plan, the Long Beach Press-Telegram writes, will be “a road map for how Long Beach – with the help of residents and businesses – can reduce the effects of global warming, an increasingly worrisome phenomenon that could be particularly devastating to coastal cities.”

According to the newspaper, the climate plan will likely be “far-ranging,” and detail incentives for energy efficiency, as well as creating insurance requirements for beachfront property owners in case their houses get destroyed during a flood.

“It will also look at how to upgrade Long Beach’s electrical grid and other infrastructure to handle increased temperatures – a response to the 2015 heatwave-caused blackout that left downtown residents without power for five days,” the story states.

The city says the goals of the plan are to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare the community for the impacts of climate change, improve the quality of life and enhance economic vitality in Long Beach.

“Long Beach strives to be a more sustainable and resilient city in the face of climate change impacts such as air pollution, extreme heat, drought, coastal storm surge, and sea level rise,” is the city’s statement on its plan.

Happy New Year

My list of the three best, or most provocative, yearend climate change-related headlines are:

No. 1: Extreme weather in 2018 was a raging, howling signal of climate change

An article in the Washington Post on Dec. 31 notes that 2018 was “definitely a hot and perilous year.”

“Perhaps most striking were the temperature extremes,” the article states. “It was not the hottest year on record in terms of overall global temperature — the three previous years were slightly warmer — but many places around the planet set high-temperature records.”

Among the noteworthy events of the last year, the article notes, was the late intensification of Hurricane Michael in early October in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Normally, when a hurricane moves north in the gulf, it weakens somewhat,” it states. “But Michael exploded from a tropical depression into a major hurricane with startling speed and then strengthened all the way to landfall, when it was nearly a Category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind-speed scale. After shredding Panama City and Tyndall Air Force Base and destroying the town of Mexico Beach, Fla., with a 16-foot storm surge, the storm remained a full-blown hurricane deep into Georgia.

It concludes that natural disasters cost the world $155 billion this year, and several of them struck the U.S. particularly hard, including hurricanes Michael and Florence, as well as the California wildfires.

No. 2: Galaxy May Be Littered With Dead Aliens Blindsided By Natural Climate Change

Bruce Dorminey, a Forbes contributor, pondered in a Dec. 31 article reflecting on 2018 just how many alien civilizations within our part of the Milky Way galaxy might have already come and gone?

“That is, bitten the dust due to wholly natural climate change long after their planet had sung its last Auld Lang Syne?” Dorminey writes.

He explains that as stars age over billions of years, their luminosity increases and causes their habitable zones to expand outward.

“Thus, extraterrestrial intelligence that happened to evolve on planets at the inner edges of their solar systems’ habitable zones might initially blossom into technological civilizations. But as their star’s luminosity increases over time, their planet would suffer a hellish, climatological holocaust,” he writes.

No. 3: After the events of 2018, climate change should be our biggest priority

Seattle Times columnist Jon Talton wrote in a Jan. 1 article that the biggest story of 2018 was climate change.

“The same will be true in 2019 and every year of our future,” he writes. “Nothing else comes close.”

Why is climate change such a big story?

Because it has “great bearing on business and the economy.”

As evidence of that he cites the most destructive wildfires in California history, which the California Department of Insurance recently reported had cost more than $9 billion in insured losses, drought ranging from Europe and Australia to the American Southwest, and numerous record high temperatures.

“Most finally realize we’re on a new and dangerous trajectory,” he writes. “One report put the price tag on the 10 worst events of the year linked to global warming at $85 billion. In 2017, another study put the total cost at hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the United States alone.”

Another City on Climate

Powell River in British Columbia has adopted a new Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Portfolio that targets a reduction in carbon emissions to 30 or 40 percent by 2032.

“In its recently announced CleanBC plan, the province upgraded its targets to 40 percent by 2030, 60 percent by 2040 and 80 percent by 2050,” the Powell River Peak newspaper reports. “All new buildings will be net-zero energy by 2032 and by 2040 all new cars must be zero emission.”

Powell River is a remote town of 13,000-plus residents spread out among its 11-square-miles. It was incorporated in 1955, but only became an official city in 2005.

The paper interviews Powell River sustainability consultant Anastasia Lukyanova, who reports that in 2017 emissions from all city operated buildings, fleet and equipment, was 1,923 metric tons, costing the city $1.6 million.

She told the paper there’s a gap between political will and the will of the public.

“Unless things are in policy and actually mandated they quite often do not happen,” Leishman said. “Some of these plans have been sitting on the shelf until people have been bringing actions forward and forcing things to happen.”

Act of God

The publication Slate in a recent piece argues that “Climate Change Should Kill the Act of God.”

Also known as “Force Majeure” clauses, acts of God relate to events outside of human control. These acts include natural disasters like flash floods and earthquakes, and the provisions typically eliminate or limit liability for injuries and losses.

These provisions are oft included in insurance policies, business contracts, and legislation like the Clean Water Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the Slate article notes.

The bottom-line of the article’s argument is as follows:

“While specific weather events such as hurricanes or fires may seem to be acts of God, our growing knowledge of climate systems challenges any vision of weather divorced from human activity. Humans meddle with the climate, which meddles with weather, and the two can’t be disentangled.”

In other words, it’s no longer correct to say weather events are “uncaused or unpreventable by human activity.”

Human action on climate change could have prevented the cataclysmic droughts, fires, and floods that lie in wait in the near future, according to the article.

“The public now knows who triggers the growing spate of hurricanes, floods, and extinctions, and it is not God,” the article states. “Scientists have been warning the public about human-caused climate change for decades. In fact, the act of God’s obsolescence is just one symptom of a deeper disease. Our legal and intellectual frameworks have not kept pace with our understanding of the climate.”

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