Northern Ireland news

Insurance industry braced for more high winds caused by climate change

Patrons head for the exits at Augusta after the first official practice day for the 2017 Masters was interrupted by weather warnings. Picture: AP
Emily Beament

Climate change is to cause a higher number of more costly storms in the UK, the insurance industry has warned.

Rising temperatures could push up the insurance losses associated with high winds by between 11 per cent and 25 per cent for the country, according to a report for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) by AIR Worldwide.

Even under ambitious efforts to curb global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the costs are expected to rise by 11 per cent for the UK.

Existing plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions are expected to lead to around 3C of warming by 2100, which the analysis says would cause a 23 per cent increase in insurance losses from windstorms, while a 4.5C rise could see losses up 25 per cent.

The increased losses would not be spread evenly across the UK, but would see Northern Ireland, northern England and the Midlands worst hit, with southern England potentially seeing a decrease in losses from storms.

This is because even small increases in temperature are likely to shift strong winds further north, Met Office analysis suggests.

Matt Cullen, head of strategy at the ABI, said: "In the midst of all the other global uncertainties, it is important we don't overlook the inevitable long-term impacts of climate change.

"Concerns about global warming often focus on rising water levels and the threat of flooding but this new research makes it clear the impact of other meteorological events such as high winds must not be overlooked.

"Severe storms result in claims costing billions of pounds. The likelihood of these claims increasing in the future is something the insurance industry, and society, need to start preparing for now.

"Planners and builders should be aware of the need for more wind-resistant construction in specific areas of the country if claims are to be kept to a minimum and residents spared the distress and expense of higher levels of wind damage."

The ABI said that over the long term, floods and windstorms resulted in similar levels of claims, but while floods create a smaller number of expensive claims, wind damage affects far more people, but less severely.

The worst wind storm to hit the UK in recent years was the Burns Day storm, or Daria, on January 25, 1990, in which 47 people died, the ABI said.

The insurance industry paid out £2.1 billion in claims, the equivalent of £4 billion today.

Dr Peter Sousounis, assistant vice president and director of meteorology, AIR Worldwide, said: "The latest findings from the climate change science community show that just a few degrees of global warming could potentially yield significant increases in the frequency and intensity of extratropical wind storms across the UK by the middle of this century and will likely continue into the next century.

"This report illustrates that there will likely be increasingly large impacts from an insured loss perspective."

He said the report was a useful tool for the engineering community, urban planners and the insurance industry to plan for public safety and their businesses in the coming decades.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access