Is insurance about to give us an eco-warning?

Until now most of the damage to the ecosphere from increasing economic activity has not affected the insurance industry: The Sami, Pacific Islanders, crop failures (leading to desperate and vicious rebel movements) in Syria and Nigeria. Drought in Cape Town, coral bleaching, habitat loss . . .

But I now read this headline in the Financial Times, 23rd February (not sure if the link will work): Natural catastrophe losses of $4.7Bn slash net incomes at Swiss Re

The article explains that Swiss Re’s net income in 2016 was $3.56Bn. In 2017 it was $ 331million.

The two reasons given for the over 99% drop are hurricanes and earthquakes in Mexico. True natural disasters will always be uneven from year to year, but although the same claim will be made for climate-related events, unlike volcanoes and earthquakes, steadily increasing energy and water vapour in the atmosphere guarantee an upward trajectory in damage, and hence insurance claims.

The Swiss Re CEO, Christian Mumenthaler, gives an optimistic view of future prospects, but to play Cassandra would ruin business anyway. My ’Page’ on The Tragedy of the Commons explains why, even if Mr. Mumenthaler realizes the seriousness of the ecological threat, which he probably does, he has no option but to keep up the façade of a successful business. But I wonder what will happen to premiums.

But the milk is spilt. If the universal unconditional Basic Citizens’ Income had been put in place when the Green Party first suggested it, there might have been some chance of broad co-operation including transnational corporations to halt world wide ecological damage.

Not only is that now out of the question, despite the 2015 ‘Paris’ Agreement, it is becoming increasingly apparent that at best the UBI movement has no interest in ecological threats. I attended another event at the LSE last Tuesday (20th Feb), but yet again, I was the only attender who mentioned the eco- connection.

Yesterday’s Guardian tell me that for the first time ever (it says ‘since records began’) the Notth Pole rose above freezing before the sun has risen there [link is for an earlier article]. The temperature has been over 17 degrees warmer than normal. I worry because the UBI movement is apathetic. George Monbiot wonders why so few generally are interested in what should be the top political isue

But prospects may be even worse than sheer apathy. In his book Basic income: And how we can make it happen. Guy Standing thinks one advantage of the UBI is that it will facilitate economic growth. The UBI is indeed a two-edged sword, but if it does, that will perpetuate the general mindset which keeps us firmly on the road to ecological destruction.

Is the idea which I have passionately advocated for 44 years destined to do more harm than good?

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