Climate and insurance

In July of 2006, U.S. meteorologists and climatologists issued a statement while studying  climate change and how it may be affecting the weather:

…the more urgent problem of our lemming-like march to the sea requires immediate and sustained attention. We call upon leaders of government and industry to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of building practices, and insurance, land use, and disaster relief policies that currently serve to promote an ever-increasing vulnerability to hurricanes.

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies took up the call, creating a website called to help provide a resource for those in the insurance industry to learn more about the issue, and how they might be impacted.

They have a regular feature known as “takefive” on their website, and this current portion features five questions with SGA communications director David Goldberg about the release and implications of Growing Cooler, the study we recently helped release with the Urban Land Institute:

Takefive: The book says the job of reducing CO2 auto emissions should be viewed as a three-legged stool. Can you describe what you mean by that statement?

David Goldberg: Most of the discussion about reducing carbon from automobiles has focused on fuel efficiency and a potential for lower-carbon fuels, two legs of the “stool”. However, the potential gains from those technological improvements would be overwhelmed by the rapid growth in the sheer number of miles we all drive – the third leg of the stool.

The graphs showing the trend lines in the book are fairly dramatic. They show a 59 percent increase in miles driven between now and 2030. Even the most stringent emissions standards being talked about today fail without a decrease in the growth in “vehicle miles of travel”, to use the transportation planners’ term.

Many policymakers have been reluctant to talk about this because they don’t want to be perceived as calling for punitive measures against drivers. The good news in our book, though, is that the punitive approach is unnecessary.

If you build places where people can accomplish more by spending less time and money on driving, they will take advantage of it. This means people living in walkable neighborhoods in convenient locations, with services and jobs close at hand, will spend a third less time and money on driving than those in automobile-dependent areas, and more in many cases.

Read the entire interview