For Insurers, Climate Change is Very Real

Insurance claim data shows climate disasters on the increase

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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.

An Earthjustice staff member from 1999 until 2015, Brian used outreach and partnership skills to cover many issues, including advocacy campaign efforts to promote a healthy ocean.