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Insurance and Climate Change column

Activists Say They’ll Continue to Call out Liberty Mutual for Fossil Fuels

By | January 5, 2023

Right after Tim Sweeney took the helm as Liberty Mutual’s CEO, a group of activists hosted a demonstration asking the him to “pick fossil fuels or Boston” by prioritizing climate policies to mitigate risk and protect the city of Boston – Sweeney’s hometown and Liberty Mutual’s headquarters.

According to the Rainforest Action Network, who has done this sort of thing to other large carriers, this is just the beginning of the campaign.

“A global campaign of climate advocates, Indigenous leaders, youth activists are calling on Sweeney to change the company’s course today and make Liberty Mutual a bold leader among U.S. insurers,” Elana Sulakshana, senior energy finance campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, said in a statement. “Fossil fuel projects cannot be built or operated without insurance. As insurers around the world adopt policies limiting their support for these dirty energy projects, Liberty Mutual remains a top fossil fuel insurer and plays an increasingly key role in enabling the expansion of coal, oil, and gas infrastructure that the climate cannot afford.”

In other words, expect more protests in Boston and around the globe.

Liberty Mutual media relations has been reached out to for a response.

Liberty Mutual adopted restrictions on insuring and investing in coal in 2019, but activists say the policy has loopholes so it can continue to insure new coal-fired power plants globally, and that the company has no policies on oil and gas whatsoever.

Liberty Mutual has also come under fire for its coverage of the Trans Mountain tar sands oil pipeline in Canada from climate activists.

Texas Ag

A report from the Texas Department of Agriculture this week links climate change with food insecurity, calling it out as a potential threat to the state’s food supply.

The report also points to other factors that are making it harder for Texans to access and afford food, including wages falling behind rising costs of living, according to an article in the Texas Tribune.

“From the agricultural perspective, concerns were expressed regarding droughts, drying up of [artesian] wells, water use restrictions, fire threats and dangerous conditions for farm workers,” the report states.

The Tribune story notes that 2022 was one of the state’s driest years on record, while nearly half the state remaining in drought conditions at the end of December. Failed crops, low yields, and diminished grazing resulted.

The report, coordinated by the TDA and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, was submitted to the Texas Legislature on Dec. 31,

The report recommends actions, including having farmers work alongside researchers and policymakers, restoring soil health and improve water quality, and strengthening bonds between local farmers and businesses, according to the article.

The Met

The year 2022 will go down as the warmest year on record for the UK.

The Met Office reported the annual average temperature across Britain exceeded the previous high set in 2014 (9.88C).

The provisional data from the national forecaster was reported by Bloomberg in Insurance Journal this week.

The year also marked the warmest on record in data going back 364 years, the Met Office said.

“While many will remember the summer’s extreme heat, what has been noteworthy this year has been the relatively consistent heat through the year, with every month except December being warmer than average,” Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, told Bloomberg.

The Met Office’s figures are part of a trend across Europe following the region’s hottest summer, an event that likely resulted in more than 20,000 excess deaths in France, Germany, Spain and Britain, according to the Bloomberg report.

“The warm year is in line with the genuine impacts we expect as a result of human-induced climate change,” McCarthy said.

Wild Weather

Manmade warming and a persistent La Nina and are behind recent wild weather, scientists said recently.

A three-year La Nina, or cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, is creating continuing weather systems that ripple across the planet, according to an NPR article out this week.

The article notes that drought-plagued California saw torrential rain from an atmospheric river, while New Year’s brought shirtsleeve weather to the U.S. East and record high temperatures to Europe as the Northern Hemisphere.

“All the ingredients are in place for two weeks of wild weather especially in the Western U.S.,” private meteorologist Ryan Maue told NPR.

Maue said the jet stream now is unusually wavy, and as storms dip over the warm subtropics they “create a conveyor belt of of moisture to strafe the West Coast of the U.S.”

“I’d describe the jet stream and bomb cyclones as a runaway Pacific freight train loaded with moisture,” Maue said. “Climate change adds more fuel to the locomotive engine.”

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