Weathering the storm: insurance in a changing climate

Extreme weather events are worsening across Australia. Since the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20, there have been 11 declared insurance catastrophes. Since January 2020 insurers have received almost 788,000 claims related to floods and storms that have been declared catastrophes or significant events. As the climate warms, the risk of extreme weather events will continue to increase, likely bringing disasters at a scale and severity for which we are not currently prepared. Unfortunately, however, these benefits of insurance are increasingly out of reach of many people. Climate change is causing premiums to rise, forcing many people to reduce their cover or opt out of insurance altogether. Even where people can afford insurance, inconsistent and confusing policy terms often mean that when they go to make a claim, they find they aren’t covered. And rising costs of rebuilding mean that many people find they haven’t been adequately insured. The impacts of being uninsured or underinsured aren’t just financial — they also have human impacts. The research finds that many people who have been through extreme weather events are experiencing significant and ongoing emotional harm, with many reporting ongoing trauma and anxiety, relationship breakdowns, exhaustion and suicidal ideation. This report, explores the role of the insurance market in responding to these complex issues. It is informed by a nationwide survey of people that have home insurance, as well as interviews with homeowners and people who rent in communities affected by extreme weather events.

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