Natural Disasters and Development: In a Globalizing World

By Mark Pelling | Go to book overview

8

The insurance industry

Can it cope with catastrophe?

Julian E. Salt

Introduction
Climate change is happening, but the rate of change is unknown. The key to the climate change debate hinges on emissions of greenhouse gases and their reduction. Globally, humanity emits 6 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Since the 1960s the number of large catastrophic events related to weather have increased almost exponentially. The insurance sector (along with the banking sector) will be amongst the first of the sectors to feel the full impacts of climate change. The objective of this chapter is to assess climate change issues and to lay out potential solutions to the problem, especially where engagement by the insurance industry is relevant. In general, most of the actors in the insurance chain have little or no real perception of climate change issues and do not take them into account when pricing insurance policies for property. The increased levels of risk from natural events has to be factored into new insurance products, otherwise there exists a potential for a future massive and unsustainable loss from climate-induced events. The debate over climate change has moved through several phases over the years. The respective questions driving the debate have been the following:
1 Is the climate changing?
2 What is causing the change (humanity or nature)?
3 How quickly is the climate changing?
4 What impacts can we expect and when?
5 How much will the impacts cost?
6 Who will pay?
7 What can be done to slow down or reverse the trend?

Some of these questions impact directly on the insurance and financial industry, while others have a more indirect effect, albeit nonetheless important. The objective of this chapter is to explore these seven questions and lay out a potential plan to solve the problem.

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