It’s déjà vu all over again: a huge chunk of the nation is reeling from extreme weather – in this case, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, the so-called “Frankenstorm.”
Scientists tell us you can’t blame any one weather event on climate change. But they do say warmer water energizes tropical storms like Sandy. And they say a warming world puts more moisture in the atmosphere, which tends to bring greater rainfall totals when heavy weather strikes. And they point out that storm surges like the ones we’ve seen this week do more damage when sea levels are already elevated before the storm strikes.
Keep in mind that all three of these climate-related trends — rising sea surface temperatures, global average temperatures, and sea levels — are all expected to continue because of climate change.
Now consider what that means for the insurance industry, and the families and businesses across America who rely on insurance as a bulwark against financial ruin. Consider that weather disasters in 2011 alone led to $32 billion in insured losses in the United States. And consider that those losses included historic heat, widespread drought and wildfires, and Mississippi flooding — all of which, scientists say, are previews of disasters likely to become more common in a warming world.
At Ceres, we believe insurance companies and regulators would be foolish to ignore the truth: As the Earth heats up, the odds of severe weather events increase, and the risks of covering vulnerable communities rise, as well. The abnormal is becoming the new normal, and the insurance industry needs to face facts.
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