Eco-underwriting

Greenpeace woos the insurance biz.

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Insurers and environmentalists make strange bedfellows. But over the past year, Greenpeace has made startling headway in enlisting segments of the $1.3 trillion global insurance industry in its fight against climate change, or global warming.

“What can the insurance business do to safeguard its future markets?” reads Greenpeace’s 1993 manifesto “Climate Change and the Insurance Industry.” Natural catastrophes are an industry hot button: From 1966 to 1987, no single natural catastrophe cost insurers over $1 billion (in 1992 dollars); between 1987 and April 1993, 11 natural catastrophes each topped the $1 billion mark. Greenpeace says these losses are the result of global warming.

Long term, Greenpeace hopes to cast the U.S. insurance industry in the role of corporate Lancelot against fossil fuel interests and for clean energy. The emerging relationship signals a change in the jobs-vs.-environment dichotomy that has stymied “green” policy-making efforts in the past. “Many feel that utopian, pinko Greenpeacers have an ax to grind in doing away with fossil fuels and want everybody to go back to the cave and freeze in the dark,” says Kelly Quirke, a Greenpeace activist. “But look at that insurance CEO in the suit over there: He’s losing his shirt.”

“I don’t know if Greenpeace is right,” says Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America and Greenpeace’s primary liaison with the industry. “But they certainly make a credible case. Our industry is in business to write insurance, and we should not be ignoring something so fundamental as a change in conditions–economic and environmental.”

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate