Insurance companies are in the business of predicting future loss, and so must ensure that they reserve for such events. What happens when history is no longer a reliable guide for predicting the future?

“If climate change causes more volatile frequent and extreme weather events, you’re going to have a scenario where these large providers of financial products — mortgages, home insurance, pensions — cannot shift risk away from their portfolios,” Rostin Behnam of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission told The New York Times last year. “It’s abundantly clear that climate change poses financial risk to the stability of the financial system.”

More frequent floods, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes, as well as sea level rise, are the inevitable consequences of a warming planet, and their impact on everything from housing to food production are as far-reaching as they are frightening.

Pacific Gas and Electric, facing some $30 billion liability for damages from two years of California wildfires — a tab exceeding its insurance and assets — had little choice but to declare bankruptcy. “Today PG&E is confronting this risk from wildfires,” Michael Wara of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University told The Times. “Tomorrow it could be insurance companies . . . that are overwhelmed after an unexpectedly intense hurricane or series of hurricanes.”

Though much depends on the future rates of greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting severity of future warming, climate change is expected to decrease domestic production of corn, soybeans, and wheat. Higher prices, and consequently higher premiums (and subsidies), will inevitably follow.

Superstorm Sandy, in 2012, dealt a devastating blow to New York City, parts of New Jersey, and much of Long Island. Owing only to Sandy’s last-minute turn away from the South Fork, the storied Hamptons, where multi-million-dollar properties were too often developed practically to the ocean’s edge, escaped the worst of it. Nonetheless, it was immediately clear that higher, and perhaps much higher, insurance premiums would follow. How would the region bear a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane?

Bowing to political pressure — specifically, constituents of legislators in coastal districts who would face drastically higher premiums — the National Flood Insurance Program, billions in debt due to years of disproportionate rates and repeated disasters, delayed enactment of the so-called Risk Rating 2.0 restructuring by a year, until October 2021.

If there is a bright spot in the insurance sector, the industry recognizes the threat climate change poses to its long-established business model. Some companies’ own practices are evolving as they simultaneously encourage policyholders to adapt and mitigate, and claimants to rebuild according to green standards.

Can you insure against climate change?


Where U.S. house prices may be most overvalued as climate change worsens

By Brady Dennis 02/16/23
The nation’s real estate market has yet to fully account for the increasing threats to millions of homes from rising seas, stronger storms and torrential downpours, according to new research published Thursday.
Read more

Fla. lawmakers force homeowners to buy flood insurance

By Thomas Frank 12/15/22
Hundreds of thousands of Florida property owners face requirements to buy flood insurance under a precedent-setting bill approved Wednesday by the state Legislature. It’s the first mandate of its kind in the country.
Read more

Florida Developers Are Holding Off on Big Projects as Insurance Costs Surge

By Deborah Acosta 11/29/22
David Lynd, a San Antonio-based developer of large-scale apartment buildings, had been expanding his business in South Florida. But recently, he decided to put one of his new projects on hold.
Read more

Hurricane Ian could push insurers out of Florida

By Isabelle Gerretsen 10/21/22
Analysts say the excessive costs from the storm could lead to insurers either avoiding Florida property altogether or charging sky-high premiums to homeowners. The category four hurricane, which was one of the most powerful to…
Read more

Some risks too big: Insurers withdraw from fossil projects

By Frank Jordans 10/19/22
Insurance companies that have long said they’ll cover anything, at the right price, are increasingly ruling out fossil fuel projects because of climate change — to cheers from environmental campaigners. More than a dozen groups…
Read more

Treasury to insurers: Divulge your climate risks

By Thomas Frank 10/19/22
The Biden administration launched an unprecedented effort Tuesday to analyze how climate change is affecting property insurance costs and availability. The move comes as homeowners face soaring premiums in several states and dwindling insurance options.…
Read more

Californians Who Fortify Their Homes Against Wildfires Will Now Pay Less for Insurance

By Lauren Leffer 10/19/22
California homeowners might soon see some reprieve in skyrocketing property insurance rates. That is, if they take steps to wildfire-proof their houses. The West Coast state is the first in the country to require insurance…
Read more

Treasury Dept. to ask insurers for data on climate risks

By Ephrat Livni 10/18/22
The department is proposing to gather information from across the country to establish where climate change is making property insurance unaffordable or inaccessible.
Read more

Ian may push Florida real estate out of reach for all but the super rich

By Christopher Flavelle 10/13/22
The hurricane’s record-breaking cost will make it even harder for many to get insurance, experts say — threatening home sales, mortgages and construction.
Read more

Lack of flood disclosure laws is putting home buyers at risk

By René Marsh 10/01/22
Since she moved in, Jones said the property has seen some level of flooding about 30 times, but the most severe was in March 2020.
Read more

Risky Business: Underinsured Against Climate Disaster

Home and property insurance is complicated and typically boring – until a disaster happens to you. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people in high-risk disaster areas across the U.S. have been dropped from…
Read more

Hurricane Ian’s Devastation Shows the Challenge of Pricing Climate Risk

By Ephrat Livni 09/29/22
Hurricane Ian, now downgraded to a tropical storm, is expected to inflict as much as $40 billion in property damage claims and much higher total economic losses, RBC Capital Markets analysts calculated in an early…
Read more


Insure Our Future

Insure Our Future holds the insurance industry accountable for its role supporting the drivers of climate change. The campaign is calling on insurers to stop insuring and investing in coal and tar sands projects and…

Seeking Higher Ground: How to Break the Cycle of Repeated Flooding with Climate-Smart Flood Insurance Reforms

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was designed to help Americans recover from flood disasters, but it can also unintentionally trap homeowners who would prefer to move somewhere safer. Instead of moving, many policyholders find…


Climate change poses major risk to flood insurance program, experts warn

By James Jarvis   09/12/19  
Environmental experts on Wednesday warned House lawmakers about risks to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) posed by climate change, saying the situation is likely to worsen in the coming years.
Read more

First major U.S. insurance company to stop insuring and investing in coal

By Elana Sulakshana   09/11/19  
We may not immediately consider insurance as a key driver of climate change, but insurance companies provide a crucial service to dangerous fossil fuel projects. But now, that may be changing. Earlier this summer, Chubb,…
Read more

On the Alabama Coast, the Unluckiest Island in America

BY Gilbert M. Gaul   09/05/19  
Dauphin Island has been battered by more than a dozen hurricanes and tropical storms in recent decades. But that hasn’t stopped homeowners on the beach resort from repeatedly getting federal aid and insurance payouts to…
Read more

If Crop Insurance Rewarded Conservation Practices, Would More Farmers Go No-Till?

By Jessica McKenzie   07/30/19  
Crop insurance works too well for farmers who farm without regard for long-term soil health, and not well enough for the few who do. A new task force wants to change that.
Read more

Major insurer Suncorp vows to stop covering thermal coal projects

By Maani Truu   07/26/19  
The latest announcement means there are now no Australian insurers willing to underwrite new thermal coal projects, experts and advocates say....
Read more

Chubb bans coverage for coal, a first for big U.S. insurance firms

By Oliver Ralph   07/01/19  
Chubb became the first of the big U.S. insurers to announce a ban on coverage for coal companies.
Read more

How 2020 revamp of federal flood insurance rates could affect you

By Robert Brodsky   04/06/19  
Location and rebuild cost are driving the new rates, FEMA and industry experts said. The overhaul has both support and criticism.
Read more

Not Trusting FEMA’s Flood Maps, More Hurricane-Hit Cities Set Their Own Rules

By James Bruggers   03/19/19  
A growing number of cities are looking beyond the usual 100-year floodplain and requiring more homes to be built higher for their own protection.
Read more

Climate Change Insurance: Buy Land Somewhere Else

By Alyson Krueger   11/30/18  
In case global warming makes their homes uninhabitable, some millennials have a Plan B: investing in places like the Catskills, Oregon and Vermont.
Read more

Climate Change Is Forcing the Insurance Industry to Recalculate

By Bradley Hope and Nicole Friedman   10/02/18  
Insurers are at the vanguard of a movement to put a value today on the unpredictable future of a warming planet.
Read more

Emerging Climate Crisis for Home Insurance

By Peter Sinclair   10/22/19  
A task force advising Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature reported in June that homeowners’ insurance costs at least 50 percent more in wildfire zones than elsewhere.
Read more

I am a diver who documents climate change in the Arctic. And I am running out of time

By Jill Heinerth   10/06/19  
I am grateful for the opportunity to preserve images of this endangered kingdom, but what will happen to the people and animals of the North?
Read more

Broken flood insurance should help people move, not rebuild

By Rob Moore and Joel Scata, Opinion Contributors   10/10/17  
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, have exposed a major shortcoming of the National Flood Insurance Program: federal flood insurance is ill-prepared to handle the major flood events that are becoming all-too frequent.
Read more