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Australia faces the prospect of more severe cyclones, wildfires and floods as the climate warms

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Australia faces the prospect of more severe cyclones, wildfires and floods under  climate warming

Australia faces the prospect of more severe cyclones, wildfires and floods as the climate warms, the nation’s largest insurer said.

A 3 deg C increase in global temperatures will lead to higher intensity cyclones moving further south, longer bush fire seasons in all states and more intense rainfall across the country, resulting in more frequent flooding, Insurance Australia Group said in a just released report.

Rising sea levels will also increase the risk of floods impacting coastal areas, buildings and infrastructure, according to the report, which was compiled in co-operation with  with the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

“This report shows that our climate is changing more rapidly than some have predicted,” IAG chief executive officer Peter Harmer said in the report. “It is critical there is a coordinated national approach from governments, industries and businesses to build more resilient communities and reduce the impact of disasters.”

The warning comes as Sydney was blanketed in a haze of smoke for a third day from wildfires burning hundreds of kilometres north of the city. The government advised people with respiratory problems to stay indoors and avoid vigorous exercise.

The modelling indicates a necessary  increase to the climate related component of insurance premiums due to rising natural perils costs in the medium to long term.  There may be some reduction in the total market premium if climate change impacts start to render existing housing stock uninsurable, or force the creation of a government administered scheme outside of the open market.

According to the report,..a temperature increase above 2°C could result in significant access and affordability issues. The increasing frequency and or severity of weather events, coupled with compounding effects of perils (as described above) may push some areas beyond affordability or indeed habitability.  There may also be an increase in under-insurance and self-insurance.

IAG Managing Director and CEO Peter Harmer said there is an urgent need for Australia to prepare for and adapt to climate change.

“Each year we are confronted globally with extreme weather events that become natural disasters. This report shows that our climate is changing more rapidly than some have predicted, so it is critical there is a coordinated national approach from governments, industries and businesses to build more resilient communities and reduce the impact of disasters.”

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils Mark Leplastrier said:

“The report highlights that one of the key risks facing Australia as the world warms towards +3°C is tropical cyclones travelling further south with higher intensity.

“This means that parts of South East Queensland and North East New South Wales will start to experience greater devastation from strong winds and torrential rainfall due to cyclones.

“These regions are densely-populated and to safeguard these communities now and into the future, there needs to be greater investment across all sectors to reduce the financial and physical burden as the climate warms,” Mr Leplastrier added.

The findings highlight the need for resilience and mitigation planning by individuals and communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“With the annual economic cost of natural disasters predicted to hit $39 billion by 2050[we need to invest more as a nation to better protect communities.

This includes adequate land planning and building codes to ensure our infrastructure is able to withstand extreme weather, especially for cyclone and flood-prone regions,” Mr Leplastrier said.

NCAR Director for Capacity Center for Climate and Weather Extremes Cindy Bruyère said:

“Climate change is becoming a major risk multiplier, generating more extreme weather events that threaten life and property and weaken economic growth.

It is imperative that we work together to better understand these risks, so society can take appropriate steps to mitigate the potential impacts.”