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: http://goo.gl/…
Inside Climate: http://goo.gl/…
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