Farmers Insurance to the Rescue
All right! In addition to their entertaining TV ads — sing along now, bom pa dom bom bom bom bom — Farmers Insurance is cracking down on local governments that refuse to plan for climate change disasters. You go guys!
They're obviously motivated by the bottom line and not altruism or any sort of warm and fuzzy feelings for Mother Earth. But still, this is encouraging. Just when you think every politician in the country is bought and paid for and owned and operated by the fossil fuel industry, another huge powerful industry steps in and provides a counterweight.
Farmers Insurance has filed nine class action suits against 200 local governments in the Chicago area. The lawsuits are alleging that these localities have been negligent by not preparing sewers and stormwater drains for the additional rain that's been falling (and will continue to increase) because of climate change. From the linked article:
“Farmers is asking to be reimbursed for the claims it paid to homeowners who sometimes saw geysers of sewage ruin basement walls, floors and furniture. The company says it also paid policyholders for lost income, the cost of evacuations and other damages related to declining property values.”
An insurance expert speculated that Farmers “could be positioning itself to avoid future losses nationwide from claims linked to floods, sea-level rise and even lawsuits against its corporate policyholders that emit greenhouse gases.”
The director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School predicted that suits like this will become more common against local governments that refuse to prepare for climate change related disasters:
“No one is expected to plan for the 500-year storm, but if horrible events are happening with increasing frequency, that may shift the duties.”
Farmers Insurance is still the exception. Out of 184 insurance companies surveyed, only 23 of them have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. But these numbers should increase as more insurance companies realize they've been subsidizing the rightwing meme of “climate change is a hoax!” According to the New York Times:
“Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.”
As the linked article says:
“The behemoth insurance industry could provide a counterbalance to the energy industry when it comes to incentivizing near-term emissions cuts, or at least adaptation to the effects of climate change.”