VAST areas of the world are becoming uninsurable as global warming triggers
devastating and costly rises in sea levels, as well as droughts, floods and
increasingly violent storms.
Experts fear that some nations, especially those in the Caribbean, parts of
Asia and the Pacific, face greater economic hardship. They believe
insurance cover, vital for attracting inward investment to develop tourist
resorts and protect homes and businesses, will become prohibitively high.
In some areas it may disappear entirely as insurers protect themselves from
The increasing concern, which comes as representatives of more than 100
nations and governments, including John Prescott, the Deputy Prime
Minister, attend the United Nations convention on climate change in Buenos
Aires this week, has been heightened by the first map to pinpoint regions
where natural and man-made climate change will hit hardest.
The climate disaster map, which is circulating among the world's major
insurance firms, has been compiled by scientists and researchers at Munich
Re, one of the world's largest re-insurance companies.
Dr Anselm Smolka, of Munich Re, said the map, which couples the impacts of
climatic events caused by El Niño with those predicted to result
from more atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, was plotted using
information from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change and centres such as the Max Planck Institute.
Dr Julian Salt, a disaster assessment expert with the Loss Prevention
Council, which advises the Association of British Insurers, said yesterday
that the new research was "concentrating the minds" of insurers worldwide.
"It shows where there is increased risk on top of all the natural hazards.
We are fast approaching the situation where some parts of the world are
becoming uninsurable," he said. The map shows where rising sea levels and
more frequent storms may swamp islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and
the Pacific and where reductions in rainfall, such as over the
grain-growing areas of the US, can be expected.
In Britain, the map underscores the increasing vulnerability of property
and structures to higher windspeeds buffeting the country from the
Atlantic. The coastline of the North Sea, including the east and south-east
coasts of Britain, is at increased risk from a rise in the sea level.
Dr Salt said that publicly insurers will reject suggestions that insurance
may be removed or premiums will rise. Privately, however, these
"politically charged" options are being considered, he said.
He said that in countries such as the Maldives, vulnerable to increased
storms and rising sea levels, global warming could affect tourism, the
Andrew Dlugolecki, a key member of a UN Environment Programmes insurers'
initiative, said there was an urgent need for new, imaginative ways of
covering vulnerable regions and nations.
"I am quite certain that there are some areas which will be unprotectable
and may disappear. A major problem is brewing," he said.