Written by: Lukas Lehmann & Ariana Cepulis
As the temperatures continued to rise this past Thursday afternoon, Members of Congress and business leaders gathered at the Rayburn House Office Building to discuss the economic ramifications of climate change. Just as the House was adjourning for an August recess, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis began its hearing.
The panel providing testimony represented a variety of actors involved in mitigating the risk of climate change related disasters. Among them: Paula DiPerna – Special Advisor to the “CDP”, Francis Bouchard – Head of Sustainability at the Zurich Insurance Group; Garvin Jabusch – Chief Investment Officer at Green Alpha Advisors; and Jay Walker – Executive VP of Commercial Landing at South Louisiana Bank and President of the Morganza Action Coalition.
The hearing kicked off with an impassioned call-to-action from Chairwoman Kathy Castor (D-FL) in which she warned of the $1 trillion in climate-related risks that our country faces and declared that building a clean energy economy “must be the future.”
Castor’s opening remarks set a tone of urgency for the remainder of the hearing. One concern about the securities market in particular came from Jabusch of Green Alpha Advisors, who noted that many of the companies listed in the S&P 500 and other indices are either contributing to and/or not mitigating the effects that climate change will have on future business operations. He suggested that since so many people have bought into indices without considering this risk, the economy was essentially running on “auto-pilot.”
Francis Bouchard from the Zurich Insurance Group also raised alarm about the future of the insurance industry. According to his data, 2017 and 2018 were the costliest years to insure property due to the natural disasters that occurred during that time. He went on to say that current rates of insurance do not adequately reflect what will follow in the coming years. As the risk of disaster rises, so will rates, said Bouchard.
While much of the testimony brought to light the cost of the damages our country has already fronted ($312 billion in extreme weather costs in the US last year alone, according to Bouchard), there was also a feeling of optimism as business leaders shared the solutions that were working for them and the opportunities for growth looking into the future. Jay Walker of Morganza Action Coalition discussed the success of levee construction in Louisiana that has helped to prevent flooding in coastal communities. Meanwhile, Zurich Insurance Group’s Bouchard supported Walker’s advocacy for resiliency funding with a claim that for every dollar invested in natural disaster mitigation, five dollars are saved.
By the end of the hearing, an almost unanimous consensus seemed to be reached after Ranking Member Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA) posed the following question: “Do you believe the federal government is doing a good job with regards to resiliency and adaptation?” Their answers:
Although policy suggestions differed among the members of Congress and business leaders, there was unilateral agreement that climate change is leading to increased environmental catastrophes and that the potential economic consequences are enormous. Something needs to be done.
The participants all were echoing a similar call — It’s time for the federal government to do more to protect people from climate change.