Temperatures are rising - and so are insurance premiums

Late last year, I went to my broker to set up insurance for my company’s new office in central Bega, NSW.

At the time, the Yankees Gap Road Fire was burning out of control 6km down the road.

My broker – who typically provides me a quote in 24 hours – took more than two weeks to get back to me. She told me there was an embargo on our postcode, due to the fires, which was preventing the arrangement of new policies. After much deliberation, I was lucky enough to have my application approved, but it made me question the nature of insurance in the face of a changing climate.

Due to climate change, extreme weather events are now occurring in a warmer atmosphere. This has meant increased wind speeds, heavier rain, worse heatwaves and more intense bushfires.

Extreme weather events have become more common globally with 2017 being notable as the most expensive year in insurance history for global weather-related disasters.

Insurers in Australia must expect the same. Premiums in northern Queensland for example, are more than double what they are in Brisbane due to climate risk.  

Some of Australia’s retail insurers are upfront about the reasons they’re passing charges onto customers – the number of weather-related disasters due to climate change are rising.

And they predict the cost of insured losses will continue to grow.

The largest re-insurance company in the world, Swiss Re is not alone in saying we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare society for increasing risks.

I live on the far south coast in Tathra, and my house was significantly impacted by the Tathra bushfires last year.

Without house insurance I would not have been able to afford the large repair bill.

We need a collective push towards climate action if we want to make significant change. We must do everything in our power to stem temperature rises and this starts by embracing the complete transition to renewable energy.

It’s very plain to me that climate change is not only an existential threat, it’s costing me money – today – in increases to my insurance.

Unless we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and take serious action on climate change – I fear many more Australians will face the same problem.

Nick Graham-Higgs is the founding director of NGH Environmental and has been an environmental practitioner for more than 25 years.