Environmentalists are not the only ones who worry as projections about climate change keep getting worse and worse. So do insurance companies, which feel the effects financially as the pace of climate-related disasters accelerates. It is telling that, even as some business groups oppose climate-change legislation in Washington, many of the companies with the most to lose from global warming are treating it as a reality – and pricing their products accordingly.
Losses from extreme weather related to climate change are no longer chump change. Allstate CEO Tom Wilson this year told investors that catastrophic weather losses beyond hurricanes and earthquakes had risen four-fold over the last three years, to $2 billion. Premiums for homeowners were rising 7 percent this year, Wilson said, noting that a big driver is roof damage from hail and wind.
“If you had asked me did I think we could have a $355 million hailstorm in Arizona [in 2010], I wouldn’t have thought that hail could be that bad in Arizona,’’ Wilson said in one meeting. Wilson said pricing premiums to account for increased extreme weather events “is permanent.’’
Other insurers are seeing the same patterns. German insurance giant Munich Re estimated that in the first half of 2011, the world suffered a record $265 billion economic loss from severe natural catastrophes. Most of the economic losses came with the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, but the biggest weather-related economic losses were still enormous — the $15 billion in the United States from the tornadoes and severe thunderstorms that swept across the Midwest and the South.
Perhaps those who aren’t yet concerned about climate change will be persuaded by hail on their roofs or cracks in the very foundations of their homes. “Unfortunately, a year like 2011 does our work for us,’’ said Sharlene Leurig, insurance analyst for Ceres, the Boston-based nonprofit that promotes corporate responsibility on climate change. “Insurers think it is a crisis unfolding. Real estate experts are starting to recalculate the value of real estate in areas of frequent extreme weather. We’re getting to the point where climate destabilization is really beginning to destabilize the real lives of people.’’
The number of weather-related natural disasters soared last year, providing “further evidence of advancing climate change”, according to a major report from one of the world’s leading reinsurance firms.
Munich Re said that 950 natural disasters were recorded last year, nine tenths of which were weather-related events such as storms, floods or heat waves. The total represents the second highest number of natural disasters recorded since 1980 and is 21 per cent higher than the average number of annual incidents recorded over the past decade.
“The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change,” the company said in a statement.
In particular, the report highlighted how losses arising from the Pakistan floods reached $9.5bn and how the deadly heat wave in Russia led to 56,000 premature deaths.
By. Peter Sinclair
Source: Climate Crocks