Risk Assessment, Climate Change and Insurance Rates

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Last year, the global insurance industry saw revenues of more than $3 trillion--a third more than revenues from oil and gas, and it adds up to enormous economic and political clout. In the late 60's, insurers lost 1 to 2% of premiums to weather-related catastrophes.  From 1984 to 2004, the average was 3.3%. Last year, it leaped to 14% because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Hurricanes in the Gulf, forest fires in the West, and rising sea levels that could mean catastrophic losses are turning the insurance industry into believers in global warming. So it's looking not just at past weather patterns but at what might be next, and using its clout to support hybrid cars, "green" buildings and other strategies to reduce greenhouse emissions. Insurers could also have much to say about where Americans locate their homes and businesses. Are they also using climate change as a way to jack up their rates and dump their riskier customers?

Credits

Guests:
Ron Scherer - Economics Reporter, Christian Science Monitor, Steven Bushnell - Product Director for Commercial Business at Fireman's Fund Insurance, J. Robert Hunter - Director of Insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, Andrew Logan - Insurance Program Director for Ceres

Host:
Warren Olney

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Karen Radziner, Katie Cooper