Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Insurance and Katrina

Did climate change make Katrina worse? Some activists are saying so, but there are calmer voices explaining that it's not that simple.

Personally, I consider it very unwise to try to use a single hurricane to convince people of the threat of global warming. For one thing, obviously, you'll make people angry. This is no time to be talking about theories; there are people who need help, and they need it now. Even after the crisis has passed, the name of the hurricane will stir up painful memories of suffering and loss. Naturally, people will resent any arguments that seem to try to profit from this pain.

A second problem is this: in any discussion of climate change, you have to be clear about the difference between climate and weather. As soon as you focus on a single weather event, you encourage people to confuse the two. You also leave yourself wide open to skeptical counter-arguments that focus on a single cold spell, early frost, or the like. The threat of global warming is not that we're all going to die of heatstroke. Instead, small, seemingly insignificant changes in the average temperatures seen over decades or centuries are expected to trigger large, socially and economically significant changes in things like sea levels, agricultural productivity, and overall losses from hurricanes and other severe storms over long periods.

Having said all that, I still found this ironic:
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) was scheduled to discuss the implications of climate change on the insurance industry at its fall meeting scheduled for September 10-13 in New Orleans. The meeting was canceled due to Hurricane Katrina, and the climate change discussion is now slated for the NAIC's winter meeting in December.

No comments: