The increasing threat of climate change can be seen all around us, from coastal properties slowly sinking into the sea to damaging storms like Hurricane Sandy that destroyed many homes along the east coast of the United States just two years ago. Homeowners are not the only ones affected by the changing climate, however.
As climate change continues to increase the risk of injuries and property damage, more and more insurers are withdrawing their polices in areas along the coast. With fewer insurance companies covering the costs of major damage, already stressed government programs and residents are left with the bill.
“As climate change becomes more of a concern for insurance companies in higher risk areas, property owners may be forced to take out limited coverage policies with higher premiums, and if a catastrophic loss ever occured, their policies may not cover the cost to rebuild or repair the damages” says David Miller, Owner and Licensed Public Adjuster of Miller Public Adjusters, LLC.
A recent study by Ceres, a Boston-based environmental nonprofit, found that a majority of insurance companies are ill-prepared to deal with the evolving environment brought on by climate change. Of the 330 insurance companies ranked in the study, only nine received top scores, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Surveys were given to the largest property and casualty, health, life and annuity insurance companies in the U.S, representing 87% of the market. The survey asked what steps these insurers were taking as climate change poses a bigger threat. They were scored on a 100-point scale, earning a distinction of either leading, developing, beginning or minimal.
While the top-ranking companies had a number of different methods for adjusting their policies to the changing environment, like investing in climate-tracking software or adjusting rate-pricing based on climate risks, one of the main ways insurers are handling climate change is by not insuring high-risk properties.
Munich Re America CEO Tony Kuczinski explained that both global warming and urbanization are putting insurance companies in a bind, making them choose between much higher rates or pulling out polices in areas that face the greatest threat, according to Mother Jones. For the most part, dropping policies is the easier choice.
Researchers from Ceres recommend that insurers make a bigger effort to adapt their policies to climate changes and improve their models for catastrophic damage.