Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Californian power company PG&E has played the climate card.
Facing $17 Billion in Fire Damages, a CEO Blames Climate Change
By Mark Chediak
13 August 2018, 20:00 GMT+10
Authorities don’t yet know the cause of some of the fires, but the region’s giant utility, PG&E Corp., see a culprit at work — climate change. The blazes in recent years, it said, are the latest example of how global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions that spawn more frequent and intense fires. “Climate change is no longer coming, it’s here,” Geisha Williams, chief executive officer of PG&E, said in an email. “And we are living with it every day.”
Scientists tend to agree with that assessment. But California’s biggest utility has an especially compelling reason to link the fires to the environment. State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes in October that in total destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people. It faces damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, and possible financial ruin — its stock is down about 37 percent since the fires — unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the company’s problem is, in fact, a climate change problem.
In my opinion it would be premature to pass judgement on PG&E for equipment initiated fires.
There are complicating factors; President Trump claims Californian opposition to tree clearing and poor Californian water management policies made the fires worse. Perhaps activist regulators prevented PG&E from clearing vegetation in vulnerable locations.
But climate is rapidly becoming a favourite excuse for companies and governments to deflect blame for their mistakes. In some cases the climate excuse is being applied in truly ridiculous circumstances.