Risk Insider: Joe Boren

Climate Change is Real and Hurts Our Industry

By: | June 19, 2014 • 2 min read
Joseph L. Boren is Chairman of the Environmental product line at Ironshore Holdings (U.S.) Inc., Executive Vice President of Ironshore Insurance Services, LLC, President of U.S. Field Operations and Director of Strategic Relations. He has experience in every segment of the environmental market; a regulator, practitioner, and insurer. Joe can be reached at [email protected]

While many aspects of managing environmental risks are very complicated, sometimes the direct relationship of a cause and its effect is clear.

In October of 1948, a historic air inversion over Donora, Pa., acted like an upside down fish bowl and trapped a layer of pollution from the local zinc and steel plants. Sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide, fluorine and other poisonous gases that usually were dispersed into the atmosphere mixed with fog to create a deadly smog. Twenty people died and 7,000 became ill, some seriously. Sixty years later, the New York Times described it as “one of the worst air pollution disasters in the nation’s history.” (Nov. 1, 2008)

 As I tell my friends, “if you want to be a climate change denier, do it quietly, alone, so others don’t know how foolish you are!” 

Dr. Devra Davis, director of the Center for Environmental Oncology of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, after a long study, concluded that the pollutants trapped by stagnant air were the primary cause of deaths (Pittsburgh Gazette, Oct. 21, 2008).

While the science behind climate change is on a much larger scale than the Donora smog, the cause and effect are still the same. When we put a lot of “bad stuff” into the environment over a period of time, we are not going to like the results.

And who puts that “bad stuff” in the environment?  Man does. We do.  Climate change is man made, man caused. As I tell my friends, “if you want to be a climate change denier, do it quietly, alone, so others don’t know how foolish you are!”

In the recently concluded National Climate Assessment, White House Science Advisor John Holdren said, “The study is the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date signaling the need to take urgent action to combat the threats to Americans from climate change.” If you need more persuading, read the report here.

Most of us probably studied something other than science in school. That is not a reason to dismiss science. Science gave us a cure for polio, put a man on the moon and an iPhone in your pocket.

I can only guess at the motivations of some politicians who think climate change is a hoax, but we are an industry that studies facts, patterns and prior results. When you study the facts about climate change, I have no doubt you will be in agreement — climate change is real. It is happening.

Changing weather patterns are having an effect on our business. Droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, etc. … I understand energy fuels our economy. I would not advocate not using oil, coal or gas, which all generate emissions. I just believe they need to be used in a cleaner way. At the same time, wind, solar and nuclear have a role to play as well.

Not dealing with the issue of climate change has and will continue to have an adverse effect on our business.

When our industry sounds an alarm, people usually listen. It is time to clang the alarm.

Read all of Joe Boren’s Risk Insider contributions.

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