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unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

For Insurers, Climate Change is Very Real


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View Brian Smith's blog posts
05 January 2012, 3:14 PM
Weather disasters taking a toll on the bottom line
Hurricane Floyd approaching Florida in 2011. (Hal Pierce / NOAA)

A vibrant climate change denial industry keeps telling Americans not to worry about global warming because the science is in dispute.

The insurance industry begs to differ.

A new report finds that climate-related disasters made 2011 an especially tough year for the sector that helps us rebuild after natural disasters.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, some $32 billion in claims was paid out to help people rebuild homes and businesses damaged or destroyed by natural disasters in the USA last year. For every $1.16 paid out in claims, only $1 came in as premiums. This is undermining insurers’ ability to stay in the business.

Worldwide, $105 billion in insured loss topped the previous record in of $101 billion in 2005.

Weather Disasters Increasing

While the earthquake in Japan was the single most expensive disaster in 2011, analysts say seismic activity has been fairly constant over the past 30 years while weather-related disasters have increased significantly.

Storms, droughts and wildfires are increasing and so are payouts to the victims of weather/climate-related disasters. Where storms cost insurers about $2 billion a year back in the 1980s, today weather disasters are costing more than $10 billion says international reinsurance firm, Munich RE.

What does this all mean for the average homeowner?

Some parts of the country may soon be uninsurable. Florida is poised to be the first state to face this grim reality. Sea-level rise and the potential losses caused by hurricanes could soon make private insurance unaffordable in coastal areas. 

When your insurance company can no longer afford to protect our homes and businesses we may all wish we had paid more attention to this issue.

The weather has become strange where we live.

Extreme rain, or extreme drought, not many "normal" years anymore.

Certainly different than when I was a child, just 40 years ago.

Florida's coastal area have moved to a "socialized" insurance because the private industry can no longer afford to offer insurance to risky condos on the beach. (See last link.)

Climate blame was a wet dream for the insurance industry.

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