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Michael John Ramirez hugs his wife Charlie Ramirez after they recover her keepsake bracelet which held a sentimental value as they recover items from the rubble of their destroyed home, after the Camp fire in Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2018.
Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway — an entire generation of Americans who have been made wealthy by Buffett’s investing genius — should consider his words on the issue and how well-protected their stock holding will be into the future.
Berkshire shareholders have overwhelmingly rejected 13 climate-related proxy proposals brought up for a vote at recent Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings, with no single measure ever receiving more than 12 percent of support dating back to 2004, according to Morningstar/FundVotes data — there have been six proposals in the past three years.
At the 2016 Berkshire annual meeting, the eminent climate scientist and former NASA official James Hansen was among the shareholders who made an appeal to Buffett. Buffett was not dogmatic or ideological, but rejected the plea not as a matter of climate denial but his sense of current business reality.
“The issue before the shareholders is not how I feel about whether climate change is real. … I don’t think you and I have any difference in the fact that it’s important that climate change — you know, since it’s something where there is a point of no return — if we are on the course that you think is certain and I think is probable, that it’s a terribly important subject.”
For most of his life Buffett has taken a provincial view of investing, focused almost exclusively on the U.S., and in that sense, many of the changes being wrought by climate change around the globe may not directly bear on his holdings. But right now, Buffett’s home state of Nebraska is experiencing record flooding. Omaha, his lifelong hometown, which averages less than an inch of rain in all of March, already has had over 2 inches of rain this month. More rainfall is a likely consequence of climate change, according to the most recent National Climate Assessment — as many as 25 U.S. states are expected to experience significant flooding this spring. But don’t expect Buffett to rush to a climate change judgment.
Buffett summed up his rejection of climate proposals succinctly at the 2014 Berkshire annual meeting: “I don’t think in making an investment decision on Berkshire Hathaway, or most companies — virtually all of the companies I can think of — that climate change should be a factor in the decision-making process.”