InsideClimate News likes to say it has received prestigious awards for being an influential “pioneer of nonprofit advocacy journalism.” In reality, it is funded by wealthy far-left foundations and excels at creating “self-sustaining environmentalist echo chambers.” Its active partnerships with the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel and other media outlets enable it to orchestrate one-sided stories on climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy and other environmental issues.
My article this week delves into ICN’s inner workings, alliances and funding arrangements. It gives citizens and voters new reasons to question the narratives purveyed by “public interest” environmental groups and the “mainstream” media.
Thank you for posting it, quoting from it, and forwarding it to your friends and colleagues.
Inside climate propaganda
InsideClimate News excels at propagating environmentalist and Obama thinking and policies
Have you ever wondered how the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel and your local media always seem to present similar one-sided stories on climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy and other environmental issues? How their assertions become “common knowledge,” like the following?
Global temperatures are the hottest ever recorded. Melting ice caps are raising seas to dangerous levels. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts have never been more frequent or destructive. Planet Earth is at a tipping point because of carbon dioxide emissions. Fracking is poisoning our air, water and climate. 97% of scientists agree. A clean renewable energy future is just around the corner.
It’s as if a chain of command, carefully coordinated process or alliance of ideological compatriots was operating behind the scenes to propagate these fables. This time, conspiracy theorists have gotten it right.
A major player in this process and alliance is one that most citizens and even businessmen and politicians have never heard of. InsideClimate News (ICN) has been called “highly influential,” a “pioneer of nonprofit advocacy journalism,” the recipient of “prestigious awards” for “high-impact investigative stories” on important environmental issues.
The Washington Free Beacon, National Review and Energy in Depth offer detailed and far less charitable assessments. Less friendly observers, they note, call ICN a “mouthpiece” for extreme environmentalist groups, because it is run by and out of a deep-green public relations consultancy (Science First) and is funded almost exclusively by wealthy foundations that share its and the PR firm’s anti-fossil fuel, pro-renewable energy, Bigger Government agenda. ICN was founded by David Sasoon, a true believer in catastrophic manmade climate change who wants to do all he can “to usher in the clean energy economy.”
Even praise from its supporters underscores the dark side of this “influential” force in eco-journalism. Its approach is “advocacy,” not fairness, accuracy or balance. Its goal is to drive a monolithic, hard-line, environmentalist narrative and political agenda, with little suggestion that other perspectives even exist.
Some of its awards come from an organization that has itself become politicized and too closely allied with Big Green views and organizations: the Society of Environmental Journalists. They increasingly operate too much as mutual admiration societies and support groups, say outside observers.
ICN and its Science First alter ego received their 2007 startup grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where Sasoon once served as a consultant. They now derive the bulk of their funding from the RBF, NEO Philanthropy (aka, Public Interest Projects), Marlisa Foundation and Park Foundation. These and other sugar daddies are covered in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staff report, which describes a “Billionaire’s Club” of “left-wing millionaires and billionaires [which] directs and controls the far-left [US] environmental movement.”
The same foundations also give major tax-exempt donations to the Sierra Club, Earthworks, NRDC, EarthJustice, the climate crisis coalition 350.org, and many other anti-coal, anti-drilling, anti-fracking, anti-Keystone pressure groups that together form the $10-billion-a-year US environmentalist industry.
ICN has active partnerships with the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Bloomberg News and other media organizations that help coordinate and disperse stories. The Times promotes the “dangerous manmade climate change” meme and refuses to print letters that reflect skeptical views.
The Associated Press has likewise become a reliable purveyor of manmade climate chaos stories. The Weather Channel and ICN teamed up in 2014 on a series of “investigative reports” that claimed hydraulic fracturing was causing serious environmental and human health problems in Texas.
The partners team up and coordinate to “have one group write on an issue, another quote them or link to them, and so on,” Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor explains. “It keeps going until they create this perception that there’s real concern over an issue, and it bubbles up to top liberal sites like Huffington Post, and from there into the traditional media,” which itself is too predisposed to the green narrative.
The foundations “have incorporated ostensibly dispassionate news outlets into their grant-making portfolios,” says the Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay, “creating what some describe as self-sustaining environmentalist echo chambers.”
They make it look like widespread public concern and spontaneous grassroots action - when in reality it is loud but small Astroturf activism, orchestrated by the ICN brigade and the foundations behind it.
InsideClimate News now brags about its involvement in the extensive collusion among the leftist foundations, environmental pressure groups and state attorneys general that are devising, coordinating and advancing AG prosecutions of ExxonMobil, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other groups for alleged “racketeering” and “fraud,” to hold them “legally accountable for climate change denial.”
The efforts “stretch back at least to 2012,” ICN notes, when a meeting was held in California to develop legal strategies. In late 2015, letters from several Democrat members of Congress called for investigating and prosecuting climate skeptics; the letters cited independent journalism “investigations by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News” to back up their request.
However, the intrepid Times and ICN investigators had conducted no investigation. They simply parroted and amplified “research” from a group of activist professors and students at the Columbia School of Journalism - without disclosing who had funded the CSJ studies. Transparency for thee, but not for me.
It was George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, along with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Foundation, Energy Foundation, Lorana Sullivan Foundation and Tellus Mater Foundation - all of which virulently oppose hydrocarbon production and actively promote climate change alarmism.
Emails subpoenaed by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute later revealed that many of the same environmentalist groups and lawyers met again in January 2016 at a secret meeting in the Rockefeller Family Fund’s Manhattan offices. Yet another secret meeting was held in March 2016, between climate activists and state attorneys general - hours before the AGs announced that they were launching RICO and other prosecutions of “climate skeptic” companies and think tanks.
The success of this campaign thus far, says ICN, has persuaded the activists to “step up efforts to pressure more attorneys general to investigate [more climate crisis skeptics] and sway public opinion, using op-eds, social media and rope-line questioning of [Republican] presidential candidates at campaign stops.”
This collusion among activists, foundations and attorneys general seeks to silence, bankrupt and defund organizations that challenge their catechism of climate cataclysm. These conspirators want to deprive us of our constitutional rights to speak out on the exaggerated and fabricated science, the coordinated echo- chamber news stories, and the pressure group-driven policies that impair our livelihoods, living standards, health, welfare and environmental quality. We will not be intimidated or silenced.
As CFACT’s new Climate Hustle film notes, manmade plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide has not replaced the powerful natural forces that have always driven Earth’s temperature, climate and weather.
The problem is not climate change. It is policies imposed in the name of preventing climate change.
That’s why Climate Crisis, Inc. wants to silence and jail us. Just imagine how much more they’ll be foaming at the mouth after throngs go to ClimateHustle.com and buy tickets for its May 2 one-night-only showing in hundreds of theaters across the United States.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has launched a fierce counter-attack against Claude Walker, the attorney general for the Virgin Islands, who recently served a subpoena on CEI demanding documents related to CEI’s research on global “climate change.”
On April 20, CEI’s attorney, Andrew Grossman, filed a long and extensive objection to the subpoena and made it clear that CEI will not comply with it. Grossman, a lawyer at BakerHostetler and co-founder of the Free Speech in Science Project, told Walker in his cover letter that the attorney general’s legal action targeting CEI is “a blatant attempt to intimidate and harass an organization for advancing views that you oppose.”
The only reason to try to force CEI to turn over its internal research and documents on this issue is “to punish [CEI] for its public policy views, chill its associations, and silence its advocacy.”
Grossman cites Walker’s own statements at the press conference held by AGs United for Clean Power on March 29 to show that Walker launched this investigation to achieve political ends, not “carry out any law enforcement duty.”
Walker said his investigation was intended to “make it clear to our residents as well as the American people that we have to do something transformational” about climate change, stop “rely[ing] on fossil fuels,” and “look at reliable energy.” As Grossman says, Walker is entitled to his opinions on public policy, but Walker doesn’t have a right to wield his “power as a prosecutor to advance a policy agenda by persecuting those who disagree with” Walker.
The objection filed by Grossman on behalf of CEI not only points out the constitutional problems with Walker’s investigation, but some crucial procedural mistakes made by Walker. For example, Walker didn’t actually get a court in the Virgin Islands to issue the subpoena; he simply issued it himself.
Subpoenas that are not issued by a “court of record” and that are not part of a “pending judicial action” cannot be domesticated in another jurisdiction like the District of Columbia where CEI is located and was served with the subpoena. This is the type of basic error that one might expect from a young law firm associate, not the attorney general of a U.S. protectorate.
But more fundamentally, CEI is objecting on First Amendment grounds, citing to court cases prohibiting the compelled disclosure of the type of information and documents that Walker is trying to obtain. Grossman claims that the subpoena “violates the First Amendment because it constitutes an attempt to silence and intimidate, as well as retaliate against, speech espousing a particular viewpoint with which the Attorney General disagrees.”
CEI asserts that the subpoena is also “invalid because the underlying investigation is pretextual, is being undertaken in bad faith, is intended as a fishing expedition, and is in support of an investigation of charges that have no likelihood of success.”
In what may be a sign of the involvement of the plaintiffs’ bar in pushing these climate change persecutions in the same way it helped instigate the massive tobacco industry litigation, CEI says the subpoena is invalid and violates the Fifth and 14th Amendments because Walker has delegated “investigative and prosecutorial authority to private parties.”
CEI is referring to the fact that Walker’s subpoena was handled by a private law firm in Washington, D.C., Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which has been called one of the “most feared plaintiffs’ firms” in the country. The firm itself brags about being the “most effective law firm in the United States for lawsuits with a strong social and political component” (emphasis added).
CEI says that Walker’s investigation “could result in penalties available only to government prosecutors.” Thus, delegating “investigative and prosecutorial authority to a private attorney, Ms. Linda Singer, and a private law firm, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, that are most likely being compensated on a contingency-fee basis, violates due process of law.”
That raises a very interesting question about “AGs United for Clean Power” - are they hiring private firms like Cohen Milstein on a contingency basis to target climate change deniers?
CEI’s objection also claims that Walker, Singer, and the Cohen Milstein firm may be subject to sanctions for violating a local court rule in the District of Columbia that required them to “take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense” on CEI, and that this broad, burdensome subpoena “plainly violates that duty given its facial invalidity, astonishing overbreadth, and evident purpose of imposing unwarranted and illegitimate burdens on CEI and CEI’s exercise of its constitutional rights.”
CEI says that Walker, Singer, and the firm “violated their ethical obligations” under a D.C. Bar Rule that prohibits an attorney from “knowingly us[ing] methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of” a third party.
CEI’s attorney concludes his letter to Walker by calling him (and all of the other attorneys general involved in this climate change cartel) out in very plain spoken terms:
Your demand on CEI is offensive, it is un-American, it is unlawful, and it will not stand.
He gives Walker a warning and a choice: “You can either withdraw [the subpoena] or expect to fight ...the law does not allow government officials to violate Americans’ civil rights with impunity.”
This morning, even here in the North German lowlands, close to sea level, snow fell as temperatures hovered near the freezing point.
Currently many Germans are struggling under snow, ice and cold as winter terminates spring for the time being. The cause: a low pressure centered over the Baltic Sea pumping in cold polar air through Europe.
Winter massberg April 26, 2016
Winter transforms Germany’s Thuringia Forest into a winter wonderland today. Massberg webcam photo 11.07 a.m.
Newsite Thuringia Antenne here writes that winter has returned and will stick around for awhile, reporting of icy roads, accidents and cold. Meteorologist Dominik Jung of www.wetter.net forecasts 5 to 10 cm of snow across wide regions of Germany, especially Bavaria and Thuringia.
The Rheinbrucke at Rees had to be closed for over an hour and a half early this morning due to accidents from icy conditions, the RP Online reports here.
Sub-zero temperatures were recorded at a number of weather stations throughout Germany this morning.
In the northeastern state of Saxony Bild national daily reports by video of a snow chaos as travelers struggle with an “enormous snow mass” as roads become impassable from the snow and snow plows are unable to keep up. The snow is expected to stay at elevations over 400 - 600 meters, wetter.net reports.
Much of Europe is forecast to remain cold at least for the next 7 days, as the following chart shows negative temperature anomalies:
Winter_April 26 2016 7 day forecast
In his video forecast from this morning, meteorologist Jung says for now, “Spring is nowhere in sight.”
Environmentalists truly believed and predicted that the planet was doomed during the first Earth Day in 1970, unless drastic actions were taken to save it. Humanity never quite got around to that drastic action, but environmentalists still recall the first Earth Day fondly and hold many of the predictions in high regard.
So this Earth Day, The Daily Caller News Foundation takes a look at predictions made by environmentalists around the original Earth Day in 1970 to see how they’ve held up. Have any of these dire predictions come true? No, but that hasn’t stopped environmentalists from worrying. From predicting the end of civilization to classic worries about peak oil, here are seven green predictions that were just flat out wrong.
1: “Civilization Will End Within 15 or 30 Years.”
Harvard biologist Dr. George Wald warned shortly before the first Earth Day in 1970 that civilization would soon end “unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” Three years before his projection, Wald was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Wald was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race. He even flew to Moscow at one point to advise the leader of the Soviet Union on environmental policy.
Despite his assistance to a communist government, civilization still exists. The percentage of Americans who are concerned about environmental threats has fallen as civilization failed to end by environmental catastrophe.
2: “100 to 200 Million People Per Year Will Be Starving to Death During the Next Ten Years.”
Stanford professor Dr. Paul Ehrlich declared in April 1970 that mass starvation was imminent. His dire predictions failed to materialize as the number of people living in poverty has significantly declined and the amount of food per person has steadily increased, despite population growth. The world’s Gross Domestic Product per person has immeasurably increased despite increases in population.
Ehrlich is largely responsible for this view, having co-published “The Population Bomb” with The Sierra Club in 1968. The book made a number of claims including that millions of humans would starve to death in the 1970s and 1980s, mass famines would sweep England leading to the country’s demise, and that ecological destruction would devastate the planet causing the collapse of civilization.
3: “Population Will Inevitably and Completely Outstrip Whatever Small Increases in Food Supplies We Make.”
Paul Ehrlich also made the above claim in 1970, shortly before an agricultural revolution that caused the world’s food supply to rapidly increase.
Ehrlich has consistently failed to revise his predictions when confronted with the fact that they did not occur, stating in 2009 that “perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future.”
See also this white paper on Food Security and Climate - What happens if the world warms? What happens if the world cools?.
4: “Demographers Agree Almost Unanimously...Thirty Years From Now, the Entire World ... Will Be in Famine.”
Environmentalists in 1970 truly believed in a scientific consensus predicting global famine due to population growth in the developing world, especially in India.
“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions,” Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, said in a 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness."By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
India, where the famines were supposed to begin, recently became one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural products and food supply per person in the country has drastically increased in recent years. In fact, the number of people in every country listed by Gunter has risen dramatically since 1970.
5: “In A Decade, Urban Dwellers Will Have to Wear Gas Masks to Survive Air Pollution.”
Life magazine stated in January 1970 that scientist had “solid experimental and theoretical evidence” to believe that “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching Earth by one half.”
Despite the prediction, air quality has been improving worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Air pollution has also sharply declined in industrialized countries. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas environmentalists are worried about today, is odorless, invisible and harmless to humans in normal amounts.
6: “Childbearing [Will Be] A Punishable Crime Against Society, Unless the Parents Hold a Government License.”
David Brower, the first executive director of The Sierra Club made the above claim and went on to say that “[a]ll potential parents [should be] required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.” Brower was also essential in founding Friends of the Earth and the League Of Conservation Voters and much of the modern environmental movement.
Brower believed that most environmental problems were ultimately attributable to new technology that allowed humans to pass natural limits on population size. He famously stated before his death in 2000 that “all technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent” and repeatedly advocated for mandatory birth control. Today, the only major government to ever get close to his vision has been China, which ended its one-child policy last October.
7: “By the Year 2000 ...There Won’t Be Any More Crude Oil.”
On Earth Day in 1970 ecologist Kenneth Watt famously predicted that the world would run out of oil saying, “You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”
Numerous academics like Watt predicted that American oil production peaked in 1970 and would gradually decline, likely causing a global economic meltdown. However, the successful application of massive hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, caused American oil production to come roaring back and there is currently too much oil on the market.
American oil and natural gas reserves are at their highest levels since 1972 and American oil production in 2014 was 80 percent higher than in 2008 thanks to fracking. Furthermore, the U.S. now controls the world’s largest untapped oil reserve, the Green River Formation in Colorado. This formation alone contains up to 3 trillion barrels of untapped oil shale, half of which may be recoverable. That’s five and a half times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. This single geologic formation could contain more oil than the rest of the world’s proven reserves combined.
Via Benny Peiser. (H/T, Ronald Bailey at Reason and Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute).
In Australia the latest (unpublished) opinion poll shows concern about tackling climate change has fallen from 55% in 2007 to 35%.
Groupthinking struggles to understand:
The aversion to talking about climate change during the election campaign reflects a wider problem: our concern for this issue has fallen even while it has become larger and more urgent, writes Mike Steketee.
Climate change dropped off the political radar - ABC Drum
It sure does reflect a wider problem: that democracies need real public debate, real choice, and we are not getting it. Skeptics want climate change to be a voter issue - bring on a plebiscite. Let the public decide how much they should spend to change the weather. But that’s exactly what the believer politicians fear. They know they have to hide the topic because it’s electoral death. Everyone wants to stop pollution and “save the planet” - it’s motherhood and apple pie, but no one wants to pay much to try to change the climate. Eighty percent might believe the climate changes, but only 12% want to pay two dollars to offset their Jetstar flight (and it’s less for Qantas). Therein lies a diabolical dichotomy.
IPSOS poll shows Australians care less - there are more skeptics
Common sense is winning.
...a sobering reality: in the last eight years, many Australians’ concern over climate change has fallen even while the problem has become larger and more urgent.
There is no conflict here. “The problem” has become almost non-existent - the rains filled most dams, the seas barely rose, and the temperatures didn’t warm - except for El Nino noise.
The market research company Ipsos has been conducting surveys on the issue since 2007. In that year 54 per cent of people who were presented with a list of issues said climate change was one that needed to be addressed. In the latest report, still to be released, this fell to 38 per cent last year. This is about the same as for the previous two years, although higher than in 2011 and 2012.
Different descriptions on the list for essentially the same issue confirmed the finding, but more strongly. For example, concern about tackling “global warming” fell from 55 per cent to 35 per cent over the eight years. Renewable energy was at the top of the list of issues that needed to be addressed but it also has fallen significantly - from 68 per cent to 51 per cent.
Climate skeptics are gaining ground:
But it also has meant ceding ground to climate sceptics. They certainly did not worry about selling their message too hard: to the contrary, they thrived on their shrill advocacy to grab attention.
The groupthink churns. Look at the language. Steketee thinks skeptics are “selling” something when the vested interests, rewards and resources are almost entirely on his side. And who’s selling “too hard” - the people who say the climate has always changed or the people who say Armaggedon is coming, and climate change causes volcanoes? The hard sell program is the one that tells us we are evil, selfish and stupid people if we don’t drink the kool aid.
And what does “thriving” mean? Believers have jobs and junkets. Skeptics get sacked, and live off donations if they’re lucky. If skeptics were thriving, the government would be giving them grants, awards, and paying for two week extravaganzas in Paris.
More polarisation - thanks to the ABC
Spot the conflict that Steketee can’t explain, but which I can:
The yet-to-be-published data from Ipsos shows a jump from 27 per cent to 44 last year in the group of so called “active believers” - those with a strong sense of urgency and concern about climate change.
Ignore that the numbers don’t add up - 44% are “active believers” but only 35% are concerned about tackling global warming. How is it that there are more skeptics overall and yet also more strident, passionate believers? If Steketee asked me (i.e. did some research) I could have told him. Long ago in 2010 a bigger more detailed opinion poll showed this issue was artificially U shaped, not a normal bell curve. If there was a real debate on a complex topic most people would be in the middle, not at the extremes. Gradually the middle would shift to one pole or the other as the issue resolved. Instead, the opposite has happened and opinions are polarizing rather than reconciling.
Only one side is right. The other side is bolstered, blinded and coached into fits of passion. One side leans to the correct, while the other to the politically correct. There is an artificial U curve because the issue is not calmly debated, it’s not discussed on its merits, and the topic has gone tribal. The ABC (and BBC and CBC) is largely to blame because they won’t allow the skeptical side to present their views. If the skeptics were wrong, a real debate would crush them.
Instead, the poor denizens of “ABC-World” are fed a litany of unbalanced, badly researched articles just like Mike Steketee’s. They hear ad hominem fallacies, innuendo, and wild conspiracies of fantasy “fossil fuel” funding that appeals to their base instincts. They are told they are smart for calling people names - “denier”. The hatred and sense of injustice inures them against rational arguments - even when skeptics are right they are wrong because they “must be paid liars”.
The ABC has burned years of trust and goodwill on this debate. Who wants public funded propaganda? Time to axe the funding, not because of its bias, but because of its incompetence.
Wherefore art the active 44%?
Looking at the IPSOS poll of 2015 the “27%” of active believers (that is apparently now 44%) comes from the researchers own categorizations which don’t even include an “active skeptic” position - a person can only be an active believer, an engaged moderate, or a passive doubter. There would be no “U” shape because of the poor design. In the US one recent poll showed 30% were happy to call climate change a “total hoax”. These would be categorised as “passive doubters” in Ipsos speak, which also finds that this group are least likely to have a university education - something that conflicts with other better surveys that show skeptics are better at science and mathematical reasoning. Still other large studies show there are proportionately more skeptics in the upper middle educated class than in the unskilled. The whole Ipsos survey is an online questionnaire. Whatever.
Believers have to hide the topic from voters
Abbott made climate change an issue and won resoundingly. Gillard gave mixed weak messages and barely won - then was caned when she broke promises and demanded hundreds of dollar per household in order to change the weather. The only time in the last five years that Australians got to vote on “climate” they chose the skeptical choice. Believer politicians have to hide this debate because they lose every way.
I am writing this section because we have a proxy proposal regarding climate change to consider at this year’s annual meeting. The sponsor would like us to provide a report on the dangers that this change might present to our insurance operation and explain how we are responding to these threats. It seems highly likely to me that climate change poses a major problem for the planet. I say “highly likely” rather than “certain” because I have no scientific aptitude and remember well the dire predictions of most “experts” about Y2K. It would be foolish, however, for me or anyone to demand 100% proof of huge forthcoming damage to the world if that outcome seemed at all possible and if prompt action had even a small chance of thwarting the danger.
This issue bears a similarity to Pascal’s Wager on the Existence of God. Pascal, it may be recalled, argued that if there were only a tiny probability that God truly existed, it made sense to behave as if He did because the rewards could be infinite whereas the lack of belief risked eternal misery. Likewise, if there is only a 1% chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy.
Call this Noah’s Law: If an ark may be essential for survival, begin building it today, no matter how cloudless the skies appear. It’s understandable that the sponsor of the proxy proposal believes Berkshire is especially threatened by climate change because we are a huge insurer, covering all sorts of risks. The sponsor may worry that property losses will skyrocket because of weather changes. And such worries might, in fact, be warranted if we wrote ten- or twenty-year policies at fixed prices. But insurance policies are customarily written for one year and repriced annually to reflect changing exposures. Increased possibilities of loss translate promptly into increased premiums.
Think back to 1951 when I first became enthused about GEICO. The company’s average loss-per-policy was then about $30 annually. Imagine your reaction if I had predicted then that in 2015 the loss costs would increase to about $1,000 per policy. Wouldn’t such skyrocketing losses prove disastrous, you might ask? Well, no. Over the years, inflation has caused a huge increase in the cost of repairing both the cars and the humans involved in accidents. But these increased costs have been promptly matched by increased premiums. So, paradoxically, the upward march in loss costs has made insurance companies far more valuable. If costs had remained unchanged, Berkshire would now own an auto insurer doing $600 million of business annually rather than one doing $23 billion. Up to now, climate change has not produced more frequent nor more costly hurricanes nor other weather related events covered by insurance. As a consequence, U.S. super-cat rates have fallen steadily in recent years, which is why we have backed away from that business. If super-cats become costlier and more frequent, the likely - though far from certain - effect on Berkshire’s insurance business would be to make it larger and more profitable.
As a citizen, you may understandably find climate change keeping you up nights. As a homeowner in a low-lying area, you may wish to consider moving. But when you are thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries.