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Risk Assessment, Climate Change and Insurance Rates

Travelers and Fireman's Fund are among the insurance companies joining the fight against global warming. The result could be a difference in what you pay for premiums, what you drive and where you live. Can the world's biggest industry help reduce greenhouse gases, or is global warming just a good excuse to raise premiums while reducing risk? Also, North Korea calls UN sanctions a "declaration of war," and the FDA's about to approve milk and meat from cloned animals--but they may already be out of the barn.

Making News

North Korea Says Sanctions Are a War Declaration ()

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on her way to Asia to push "full implementation" of the UN sanctions that North Korea calls "a declaration of war." Meantime, an unnamed US official says North Korea may be preparing a second nuclear test.

  • Paul Richter: State Department Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times

Main Topic

Risk Assessment, Climate Change and Insurance Rates ()

Last year, the global insurance industry saw revenues of more than $3 trillion--a third more than revenues from oil and gas, and it adds up to enormous economic and political clout. In the late 60's, insurers lost 1 to 2% of premiums to weather-related catastrophes.  From 1984 to 2004, the average was 3.3%. Last year, it leaped to 14% because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Hurricanes in the Gulf, forest fires in the West, and rising sea levels that could mean catastrophic losses are turning the insurance industry into believers in global warming. So it's looking not just at past weather patterns but at what might be next, and using its clout to support hybrid cars, "green" buildings and other strategies to reduce greenhouse emissions. Insurers could also have much to say about where Americans locate their homes and businesses. Are they also using climate change as a way to jack up their rates and dump their riskier customers?

  • Ron Scherer: Staff correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor
  • Steven Bushnell: Product Director for Commercial Business at Fireman's Fund Insurance
  • J. Robert Hunter: Director of Insurance at the Consumer Federation of America
  • Andrew Logan: Insurance Program Director for Ceres

Reporter's Notebook

FDA Close to Approving Sale of Meat, Milk from Clones ()

Dolly the Sheep became the world's first cloned animal in 1996. Today's Washington Post reports that the FDA is poised to approve the mass-marketing of milk and meat from cloned animals for public consumption.  The paper quotes Stephen Sundlof, Chief of Veterinary Medicine for the FDA as saying, "The food from cloned animals is as safe as the food we eat every day."  The paper also reports the claim that "cloning will bring consumers a level of consistency and quality impossible to attain with conventional breeding."

  • Rick Weiss: National Science Reporter for the Washington Post

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