Insurer vote hits climate activism hard

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KAI RYSSDAL: While Congress tries to figure out what to do about its energy and climate change bills, some regulators have been trying to change things on their own. Last year, state insurance commissioners decided insurance companies had to disclose what global warming might mean for their profits and losses. A year of lobbying by those insurance companies later, and the commissioners have changed their minds.

Sarah Gardner reports now from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.

Sarah Gardner: The reporting rule is primarily aimed at property insurers, the companies that would have to foot the bill for fiercer storms and wild fires scientists predict from global warming. But it also includes health and life insurers that might face more claims from diseases a warmer climate could bring. For years, activists had pushed insurers to publicly report on their exposure to global warming. But the commissioners voted to keep the information private.

Andrew Logan is with CERES, a coalition of investors and environmentalists.

Andrew Logan: You know, I think it really guts it of all impact. So certainly from our perspective, it was surprising and disappointing.

South Carolina's insurance commissioner Scott Richardson helped lead the revolt. He feared the reports would be misused by activists.

Scott Richardson: You know, this state's a green state, that state isn't, based on this survey. The NAIC isn't the environmental police for insurance companies and that's what this report was turning into, I think.

That's the National Association for Insurance Commissioners, the group that developed the controversial reporting rule. Mike Kreidler, the insurance commissioner for Washington state, believes politics played a role in weakening the regulation as well.

Mike Kreidler: This is an election year, and you have some movement among conservatives, such as the Tea Baggers that are now essentially in denial of climate change.

Kreidler believes that makes it harder for regulators from conservative states to endorse any regulations that deal with global warming. But he says he can still require insurers in his own state to file climate reports and he'll share them with the public.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.
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I, too, heard Kreidler's "tea bagger" comment. NPR, once again your bias is showing. I can't believe we support this propaganda with tax dollars.

If regulations are so wildly unpopular that the fact that this is an election year could "weaken" them, that's usually a sign that you shouldn't be enacting them in the first place. And resorting to pejorative obscenities to describe your opponents is another sign that you can't win your case on its merits.

I'd stop listening to Marketplace and the FCC would come after you if you used other sexual profanity on air. This is blatantly unprofessional and moves the debate away from concerns about adequate insurance reserves into other political realms.

People using and defending the use of this offensive term are attacking the patriots of U.S. history and should be ashamed of themselves.

As an American who leans toward a Green Libertarian viewpoint, I sympathize with Tea Party viewpoints of lower taxes and lower government spending as ways to fight corruption and encourage growth. This show talks about the moral hazard of bailouts often enough.

As for reporting requirements from insurance regulators, they mean nothing without specific guidelines and disaster scenarios which are measurable against other insurers. Rather than forcing private businesses to speculate about "ifs" and "whens", simply ask for an assessment of their ability to deal with an outbreak or disaster affecting 25% of their policies in a region.

Oh, those Tea Baggers are just bagging tea. It's quite appropriate.

I like tea bagger. It fits.

Doonesbury hit it on the head, recently, as Zonker begins to connect with the Tea movement....<smile>


Shame on Marketplace for including Mr. Kreidler's comment about the Tea Party movement - in which he used the term "Tea Baggers". Surely your editors/producers are fully-aware that this is a vulgar term referring to a sex act. Mr. Kreidler may well dislike the Tea Party movement and is free to resort to inappropriate name-calling if he wishes. But Marketplace had complete discretion to exclude his potty-mouth comment from their broadcast. Sadly you chose to include it, contributing to the decline in civil discourse in America (and calling into question your political neutrality).

During the 80�s and 90�s I depended on the excellent journalism that defined NPR. However, over the last 10 years I drifted over to other media for most of my news and NPR was no longer my first source of information. This past week I thought I�d make a point to listen to NPR news and in particular, �Market Place.� Today was my second day of listening to your program. Wow, what an education! In summary I can see why many refer to NPR as �National Progressive Radio.� The story where you purposely used a pejorative to describe the popular �Tea Party� movement and then labeled people who remain skeptical about human caused global warming as �climate deniers,� is enough to convince me that your standards of journalism have evaporated. You must think yourselves cute to interview �experts� who didn�t somehow get the memo that Tea bagging is a type of oral sex. Or more likely they fully understand the pejorative and think if they minimize people who want smaller government and reduced deficits, maybe they�ll go away. In reality it is your expert who comes across as a narrow minded idiot and your reporter as a fool. Do you really think your listeners can respect a news program that resorts to Howard Stern commentary to make their point? If you considered this serious journalism, then obviously someone has lost their compass in your organization. Oh, by the way, the Tea Parties are not going away, so you better get use to us. Michael Thomas, Ph.D.

Mr. Mike Kreidler's comment referencing the members of the Tea Party movement as "Tea Baggers" is highly offensive if he does, in fact, know what the term means or Mr. Kreidler is an ignoramus. For those who are unaware, the term "tea bagger" is a derogatory phrase describing those who participate in the insertion of one man's testicles into another person's mouth. It's completely inappropriate in intellectual and political discourse for that type of comment to be made. Certainly there are a few bad apple in every bunch but to degradate the entire group is intellectually dishonest and unfair. I'm disappointed in Marketplace for broadcasting such a derogatory statement and find it hard to believe that no one on staff knew what it meant so that it could have been cut from the piece. In general, I enjoy NPR specifically because they do not add to the polarization of the political climate. In my opinion, this was an editorial failure. Seriously, where's the tact?

Guess what...the 500-year flood plain has become the annual (or perhaps bi-monthly) flood plain. Heard anything from eastern Massachusetts lately or did everyone float away?
What gets measured gets managed, and right now insurance companies are not managing climate-related risks adequately. Politics aside, they owe that to investors.

I think it is good that the insurance companies do not have to report their guesses at what risk they face from climate change. It is not a question if climate change exist or not but it is a question of how exactly will climate change cause natural disasters tomorrow, in 5 years, in 25 years. Any report would be a guess right now but it would force the insurance companies to raise rates on a guess instead of averaging out the past risks with an eye to the future. It is one thing to insure a building in a flood plain but until the 500 year flood plain becomes the annual flood plain the public will have a fit over increase insurance rates over a flood that may not happen in their life time.

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