WV needs leaders who will move past fossil fuels (Opinion)

By Eric Engle

Jul 26, 2023

Charleston Gazette-Mail



While homes and businesses in states like Florida, California and Louisiana become uninsurable from the effects of climate change, the fossil fuel industry contributing most to the climate crisis has no problem getting all the insurance and reinsurance it needs.

To quote from a piece by journalist Taylor Kate Brown writing for Floodlight and also published in The Guardian, “Each of the world’s largest insurance companies receive annual premiums from fossil fuel projects between $250 — $800 million a year, according to an internal study commissioned by Insure Our Future by market intelligence firm Insuramore.” Brown continues, “For large projects such as LNG terminals, risk is spread among many insurers, as well as the developer itself through financial mechanisms like capital reserves, debt and equity.”

Gee, our homes can’t be insured by multiple insurers. Our small businesses can’t afford to supplement their insurance premiums with their capital reserves or any debt or equity. If you’ve been keeping up with Mike Tony’s incredible reporting in the Gazette-Mail on climate change-induced flood risk in West Virginia, you know that these insurance woes are coming, or may already have come, to a holler or riverfront property near you.

The Taylor Kate Brown piece also says that “While many of the world’s largest insurance and reinsurance companies have emissions targets and no longer insure coal projects, they have resisted calls to stop insuring fossil fuel projects entirely, despite their contribution to the climate crisis and increased global risk.” “At the same time,” Brown continues, “state legislatures and Republican attorneys general have threatened insurance companies for using environmental criteria when setting rates, spooking major insurers away from a UN-backed effort on cutting emissions.”

Sound familiar? This is exactly the kind of thing our own attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, Patrick Morrisey, would happily engage in. Morrisey and state Treasurer Riley Moore have thoroughly enjoyed the spotlight they’ve gotten opposing environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing by fiduciaries, banks and other financial institutions. They don’t want the owners and controllers of capital investing in a safe and healthy climate future; why would they want anyone, except maybe their industry masters and corporate overlords, to be insured against climate calamity?

Sit with the thought of that for a minute. We’re indisputably in the midst of a global climate crisis, with surface and ocean temperature records in the Northern Hemisphere falling like dominoes and with trillions in cumulative damages in this country alone just in the 21st century. And we’ve got one of two major political parties (the GOP) dedicated to making sure we don’t protect our assets, financial or physical, from the almost unfathomable harm to come. The Republican dragon lies on its gold mound while the masses suffer.