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Climate Change Gets On Berkshire Agenda

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Former NASA scientist James Hansen has made prominent comments about global warming concerns since the late 1990s. (Photo courtesy Columbia University)

In the simmering cauldron of dialogue/rancor that is the subject of Climate Change, two names need no introduction. They are Al Gore and James Hansen. James Hansen will get a chance to discuss the impact of climate change in front of an investor who also needs no introduction -- Warren Buffett -- this weekend.

Hansen is scheduled to address the annual shareholder meeting of Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway during the April 30 general session. His comments are publicized to be in support of a resolution brought to the meeting by the Nebraska Peace Foundation that calls for Berkshire Hathaway to publish a report outlining the company's risk to its insurance division from damages caused by climate change. During the lunch break Saturday, Hansen is also on tap to speak at a climate activist rally calling for Buffett to take a strong position on climate change.

It will be interesting to see what emanates from this effort -- the resolution, Hansen's comments or Buffett's reaction. Buffett's history on climate change-related investing is that it's not worth losing profits over. Berkshire Hathaway has extensive holdings in fossil-fuel businesses, and made a notable commitment in that avenue several years ago when the company bought Burlington Northern Railroad, which gets much of its traffic by transporting coal. As far as alternative energy investment is concerned, Buffett has publicly stated that, in his analysis, such power sources as wind energy do not work financially without tax incentives.

On the other hand, the increase in damage from severe storms and drought, which many scientists tie to a warming climate, has gotten the attention of the insurance industry. A 2012 insurance industry report places the insurance industry as the world's largest economic sector, with revenue of $4.6 trillion, or 7% of the global economy. Between 1980 and 2012, a report from the Munich Re company cites climatic events as the cause of 72% of global insurance claims and insured losses.

The Berkshire Hathaway insurance division has been a cash machine over the years, again, notably cited by Buffett during the annual meeting program. So, with those kinds of figures to consider, it may be that the call for more details on climate change-related costs gets at least more than a brief glance.

Here are two links to articles about the Hansen presentation:

Omaha World-Herald:…

Inside Climate:…

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Dakota Ag
5/9/2016 | 7:53 AM CDT
Resolutions, laws, etc. will not stop climate change. It will forever be changing. Thinking we can stop a natural warming cycle is like thinking we can stop winters in north Dakota, or stop an ice age. Nature warms and cools our impact is insignificant.
5/2/2016 | 12:37 PM CDT
Warren Buffett a member of the party of no?
5/2/2016 | 7:27 AM CDT
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma , and the Lord said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of mans heart is evil from his youth, and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night, Shall not cease Genesis 8:20-22
Jay Mcginnis
5/2/2016 | 6:57 AM CDT
For 10 years now I have radically reduced my carbon footprint through solar, geothermal heat/air and electric car proving it can be done but that infuriates the right wingers who don't want it to work with all sorts of excuses why we can't adopt a renewable/carbon free energy policy. I am convinced that this society will hand to future generations a dysfunctional climate because "the powers to be" won't give up their profits in both fossil fuels and building military might for Mideast conflicts. Fossil fuels are this societies heroine and the corporations are the pushers to the deniers. The party of NO will lead us to our demise but along the way they will swell their pocketbooks and shareholders bottom-line even when the solution is as easy as the rising sun and blowing wind.
Bryce Anderson
5/1/2016 | 7:11 AM CDT
The Nebraskans For Peace resolution was voted down with 88 percent of the BH shareholder votes indicating "no".
Arthur E Brownlee
4/29/2016 | 4:10 PM CDT
It's hard to tell a scientist from an activist anymore (food scientists, climate etc.) except maybe whose trough is deeper the government's or the corporation's?
4/29/2016 | 10:51 AM CDT
Scientist and activist...pure and unbiased or an agenda. Real hard to wear those two hats.
4/29/2016 | 8:02 AM CDT
Always wondered what you did for a living Jay!
4/29/2016 | 7:48 AM CDT
As long as abodes are heated and cooled, lit like extravagant Christmas decor, highway and urban construction keeps obliterating the landscape, airport runways continue getting longer, all this type of hoopla is a bit hypocritical.
Jay Mcginnis
4/28/2016 | 9:22 PM CDT
In 2011 I was one of Hansen's 1000 protesters arrested for protesting the XL pipeline. All of what Hansen predicted is coming true unfortunately, sadly congress does very little.