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Q I've just lived through another hurricane season in Florida. Is it true that global warming could increase my insurance?

A Scientists believe that global warming is making hurricanes and tropical storms more destructive, so as damage claims increase, it's likely that insurance will be more expensive, and perhaps more difficult to obtain. Over the past three decades, sea surface temperatures have risen, and today's average storm has higher wind speeds and lasts longer than those of the 1970s. Temperature isn't the only factor that controls storm frequency and intensity, but warmer water pumps more energy into the storm system, so its effect is pretty hard to ignore. Insurance industry risk analysts are just beginning to factor global warming into their assessments. Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurance company (an insurer of the insurance industry, in other words), believes that global warming is already taxing the insurance industry. Insured disaster losses totaled $44 billion last year -- an industry record. Some say the insurers are simply looking to global warming as an excuse to raise insurance rates; that increased coastal development is partly to blame. The Association of British Insurers predicts that global warming is likely to increase the worldwide cost of major storms by as much as two thirds over the next 75 years.

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Illustration: Mark Matcho

OnEarth. Fall 2005
Copyright 2005 by the Natural Resources Defense Council