U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez
Homeowners are the ones who incur the hefty costs when extreme weather strikes, especially those who live in low-lying coastal areas. Now is the time for all levels of government, in conjunction with the innovations made by the private sector, to come together and fortify America’s infrastructure resilience.
Companies are raising the cost of homeowner insurance to cover the escalating risks associated with hurricanes, flooding, and everyday rain events associated with the effects of climate change.
The situation has gone from bad to worse for Florida domestic insurance carriers (who cover most of the state’s homeowners’ market) this year. In just the first half of 2020, the companies sustained $501 million in underwriting losses and $227 million of negative net income.
Those losses, from weather losses and litigation, are translating into rate increases for homeowners ranging from more than 20% to nearly 40%. If unaddressed, climate change will lead to even higher premiums.
Among 2020’s other dubious distinctions, the year contained the highest temperature on record, and the National Hurricane Center had to turn to the Greek alphabet in September just to keep up with names for tropical storms. By the time the year ended, we experienced 30 named storms (the highest on record), 13 hurricanes (second-highest on record), and six major hurricanes (tied for second-highest on record), which is more than double the activity of an average season.
U.S. hurricane damage exceeded $37 billion, according to insurance broker Aon, the eighth-highest annual total on record. Estimated insured losses due to those storms topped $15.6 billion. Eventually, such losses will drive down property values. Organizations predicting risk forecast that $5.7 billion in residential property value in Miami-Dade County is at risk of being flooded by 2050.
In 2020 alone, Americans paid $25 billion to recover from extreme weather, further underscoring the need for better, more sustainable technologies and practices. There will be a point at which insurers are no longer willing to underwrite homeowner insurance policies, rendering the cost of insuring a home out of reach for most Americans.
It’s almost as if we are willing to make our homes unaffordable and our planet uninhabitable for millions of people. What are we willing to do to confront the changing climate that is destroying our planet and pricing us out of our homes? Would we rather pay astronomical insurance costs, or go uninsured?
Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon all of us to invest instead in clean energy and resiliency solutions to deal with the impacts we have created and prevent the worse ones coming down the pipeline. We can have a resilient Florida, but we need to address our aging infrastructure, upgrade to a modern electric grid, and reduce the emissions causing the increasingly damaging weather.
U.S. Rep Carlos Gimenez (R) represents Florida’s 26th congressional district, encompassing all of Monroe County and the southwest portion of Miami-Dade County.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.