Insurance Industry Awakening to Climate Risks

California will require all major insurers to survey and report climate risks

Insurers in California, Washington, and New York will be required to describe the steps they're taking to address climate change.

Insurance commissioners in three states, including California, are now requiring that insurers report on how they’re preparing for climate change. Insurers will fill out a survey, which was adopted by The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in 2009, but was never implemented by commissioners in all fifty states. Instead, it’s been a piecemeal approach. California administered the survey in 2009 and ’10, requiring all insurers that met a minimum size requirement and that were headquartered in the state to fill it out. Now California is expanding the initiative: all insurers that write premiums worth more than $300 million and do business in the state–not just those based here–will be required to fill out the survey. New York and Washington are doing the same.

The Climate Risk Survey covers general questions: does the company have a climate change policy with respect to risk management and investment management, has the company considered the impact of climate change on its investment portfolio, does the insurer have a plan to assess or mitigate its own emissions?  An example of California’s survey from 2009 is available as a PDF from the NAIC website.

[module align=”left” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]”The fact that regulators who are responsible for overseeing the solvency of the biggest industry in the world are worried about climate change is a powerful statement about the urgency of this problem.”[/module]

“It’s very broad,” said Andrew Logan, who directs the insurance program at Ceres, a non-profit that focuses on making businesses more sustainable. “It covers everything from how insurers are building climate science into their risk models to how they’re thinking about climate change as investors, to whether they’re building products that encourage climate-friendly behavior. So it cuts across all the types of ways climate change could impact the industry.”

Ceres worked with NAIC to develop the survey. Logan said climate change has the potential to impact all sectors of the industry. Property, life, and health insurers all face risks from it. NPR reported last month that homeowners insurance rates will go up as much as 10% this year, following the series of natural disasters in 2011. NPR didn’t link those disasters to climate change, but Logan pointed, out it’s years like that that make the insurance industry vulnerable.

“They’re really on the front lines as we see the the physical impacts of climate change getting worse,” he said. “The fact that regulators who are responsible for overseeing the solvency of the biggest industry in the world are worried about climate change is a powerful statement about the urgency of this problem.”


Insurance Industry Awakening to Climate Risks 1 February,2018Molly Samuel

2 thoughts on “Insurance Industry Awakening to Climate Risks”

  1. Two thoughts here:  One is that it is about time to put the focus on the financial risk of climate change and the insurance industry is the only force that can do this.  The second is that we are probably going to see the Republicans start complaining about this as yet another example of over regulation.  I would think that all of the big governmental projects, like the development of Treasure Island, need to have the same criteria applied.

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Molly Samuel

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.

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