Climate Change, Insurability of Large-Scale Disasters and the Emerging Liability Challenge

42 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2007 Last revised: 28 Apr 2013

See all articles by Howard Kunreuther

Howard Kunreuther

University of Pennsylvania - Operations, Information and Decisions Department; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Erwann Michel-Kerjan

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School - Center for Risk Management

Date Written: January 2007

Abstract

This paper focuses on the interaction between uncertainty and insurability in the context of some of the risks associated with climate change. It discusses the evolution of insured losses due to weather-related disasters over the past decade, and the key drivers of the sharp increases in both economic and insured catastrophe losses over the past 20 years. In particular we examine the impact of development in hazard-prone areas and of global warming on the potential for catastrophic losses in the future. In this context we discuss the implications for insurance risk capital and the capacity of the insurance industry to handle large-scale events. A key question that needs to be addressed is the factors that determine the insurability of a risk and the extent of coverage offered by the private sector to provide protection against extreme events where there is significant uncertainty surrounding the probability and consequences of a catastrophic loss. We discuss the concepts of insurability by focusing on coverage for natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. The paper also focuses on the liability issues associated with global climate change, and possible implications for insurers (including D&O), given the difficulty in identifying potential defendants, tracing harm to their actions and apportioning damages among them. The paper concludes by suggesting ways that insurers can help mitigate future damages from global climate change by providing premium reductions and rate credits to companies investing in risk-reducing measures.

Suggested Citation

Kunreuther, Howard C. and Michel-Kerjan, Erwann, Climate Change, Insurability of Large-Scale Disasters and the Emerging Liability Challenge (January 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w12821. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=956860

Howard C. Kunreuther (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Operations, Information and Decisions Department ( email )

3730 Walnut Street
558 & 559 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-5340
United States
212-854-0423 (Phone)
215-573-2130 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Erwann Michel-Kerjan

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School - Center for Risk Management ( email )

Jon M Huntsman Hall, Suite 500
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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