How climate change is making Australian homes uninsurable | Insurance Business Australia
With climate change causing catastrophic weather conditions to increase in frequency and magnitude, Australia is rapidly being pushed to the brink of becoming an “uninsurable nation,” according to a recent study conducted by the Climate Council.
The organisation warns that the situation can drive insurance premiums to unaffordable levels and make coverage inaccessible in large parts of the country.
The council’s research estimates that one out of 25 residential and commercial buildings – equivalent to 520,940 properties – in Australia will be “effectively uninsurable” by 2030, with the figures reaching as high as nine in 10 in the worst-impacted suburbs.
“Worsening extreme weather means increased costs of maintenance, repair, and replacement to properties – our homes, workplaces, and commercial buildings,” the council noted in the report. “As the risk of being affected by extreme weather events is increasing, insurers are raising premiums to cover the increased cost of claims and reinsurance.”
Read more: Climate change threatens home insurance affordability in Australia – GlobalData
What are the top climate change-related risks facing Australian homes?
The study identified five climates where risks are expected to have the greatest impact on the insurability of properties across the country. These hazards and their definitions placed by the Climate Council are detailed in the table below.
This happens when a river exceeds its capacity, inundating nearby areas.
Surface water flooding
Also called pluvial or flash flooding, this type of overland flooding occurs when sustained rainfall or short-duration heavy rainfall events cause the ground to reach saturation point and drainage systems to overflow, resulting in the build-up of excess water.
These are destructive fires that spread via trees, forests, and ground cover. This definition does not include grass fires.
This occurs when seawater temporarily or permanently floods an area due to a combination of sea level rise, high tides, wind, low air pressure and/or waves. This definition does not include coastal erosion.
This is high-wind conditions that may exceed a building’s design specifications due to projected changes in sea surface temperature, wind regimes, and wind speeds.
Source: Uninsurable Nation: Australia’s Most Climate-Vulnerable Places, Climate Council
Among these hazards, riverine flooding poses the biggest risk to properties. Of all the properties considered high-risk, 80% of that risk is due to riverine flooding. Bushfires and surface water flooding round up the top three climate change-related hazards that will cause homes to become uninsurable by the decade’s end.
Read more: What lies ahead for coastal properties vulnerable to climate risk?
Which places in Australia are most impacted by climate change?
While climate change’s impact can be felt across the country, some regions face greater risks than others. To find out the “top 10 most at-risk federal electorates” in Australia, the Climate Council used a modelling system based on the percentage of high-risk properties in each area.
The organisation defines high-risk properties as having “annual damage costs equivalent to 1% or more of the property replacement cost.” They are also referred to in the report as uninsurable, which means that although policies might still be available, premiums are expected to become too expensive for residents to afford.
The electorates in the list are home to a combined 165,646 properties that are predicted to be impossible to insure by 2030. This number is equivalent to one in seven properties or 15% of the total. Here are the top 10 places in the country that are predicted to have the largest proportion of uninsurable homes due to climate change by 2030, according to the Climate Council’s study.
Number of properties: 94,280
Number of high-risk properties: 25,801
Percentage of high-risk properties: 27.4%
The federal electorate of Nicholls consists of the local government areas (LGA) of Greater Shepparton, Moira, Campaspe, Mitchell, and some parts of Strathbogie. The area is home to prime agricultural land, dairy farms, orchards, and world-class wineries. However, the rivers that support Nicholls’s agriculture industry also present the greatest risk. According to the report, 26.5% of properties in the region will be at high risk of riverine flooding and another 1.5% will be worst affected by surface water flooding by the end of the decade.
State: New South Wales
Number of properties: 106,445
Number of high-risk properties: 22,274
Percentage of high-risk properties: 20.9%
Richmond comprises the LGAs of Tweed, Byron, and Ballina. Riverine flooding from the Richmond River and its tributaries presents the greatest risk in this electorate, particularly to homes and businesses along the coasts and near rivers, impacting 14.5% of all properties by 2030. Bushfires are also another hazard, with 5.2% of homes and establishments, including those in the suburbs of Main Arm, Mount Warning, Mullumbimby Creek, Wilsons Creek, and Coorbell at significant risk.
Number of properties: 132,078
Number of high-risk properties: 19,551
Percentage of high-risk properties: 14.8%
Maranoa consists of 17 LGAs, including Diamantina, Longreach, Maranoa, Western Downs, Winton, and parts of South Burnett, Southern Downs, and Toowoomba. Almost 14% of all properties in the electorate are predicted to be at high risk due to riverine flooding. The region is home to the Condamine-Balonne river system, one of the major tributaries of the Murray-Darling river system. In the regional town of St George, which straddles the Balonne River, more than 70% of properties are expected to be uninsurable due to flood risk by 2030.
Read more: Insurance industry issues warning on climate change's impact on coastal areas
Number of properties: 131,924
Number of high-risk properties: 18,032
Percentage of high-risk properties: 13.7%
Moncrieff incorporates Surfers Paradise and the central portion of the Gold Coast. The study forecasts that almost 12% of properties there will be at high risk because of riverine flooding by the end of the decade. The suburb of Broadbeach Waters faces the greatest risk, with 45% of buildings forecasted to be uninsurable due to the hazard – a fate that is predicted to be shared by 25% of homes in Mermaid Waters and Surfers Paradise.
Number of properties: 88,952
Number of high-risk properties: 12,140
Percentage of high-risk properties: 13.6%
The federal electorate of Wright comprises Lockyer Valley and parts of Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Scenic Rim, and Southern Down. Bushfires are the top climate change-related hazard in the region, with 9% of all properties anticipated to be at high risk. The Climate Council’s research also predicts that a high proportion of properties in the localities of Yarrabilba, Canungra, Greenbank, Kairabah and Jimboomba will reach high risk by 2030 because of the hazard. Riverine flooding, meanwhile, is the greatest danger facing 3.6% of homes and commercial buildings.
Number of properties: 145,103
Number of high-risk properties: 19,355
Percentage of high-risk properties: 13.3%
Of all the properties in Brisbane, 12.5% will be at-risk of riverine flooding and 3.3% due to pluvial flooding by 2030. According to the study, the suburbs of Milton, Albion, Newstead, and Brisbane City are at the greatest risk from river floods, with the last two areas also facing a “compounding risk of surface water flooding.”
Read more: Is flood insurance worth having in Australia?
Number of properties: 112,833
Number of high-risk properties: 14,812
Percentage of high-risk properties: 13.1%
Riverine and surface water flooding are the biggest risks facing homes and commercial establishments in Griffith, impacting 11.4% and 2.2% of all properties by the decade’s end, respectively. The suburbs of West End, Fairfield, and Yeronga are expected to be the worst affected, with almost half of the properties forecasted to be at high risk.
Number of properties: 99,086
Number of high-risk properties: 11,215
Percentage of high-risk properties: 11.3%
Indi consists of the LGAs of Wangaratta, Alpine Shire, Benalla, and Strabogie. This part of Victoria is home to many rivers, including the Goulburn River, Broken River, King River, Buffalo River, Ovens River, and the Kiewa River. For this reason, riverine flooding is the top hazard property owners are facing, pushing 10.7% of homes and commercial buildings to becoming uninsurable by 2030. During the period, 60% of properties in Wangaratta and 20% of those in the picturesque tourist town of Bright will be considered high risk.
Read more: Climate change leaves Australia parched, according to climate expert
State: New South Wales
Number of properties: 103,657
Number of high-risk properties: 11,691
Percentage of high-risk properties: 11.3%
By 2030, 5.4% of properties in the electorate will be at high risk due to riverine flooding, almost the same proportion (5.3%) of those worst-impacted by bushfires. Page incorporates parts of Ballina, Lismore, Richmond Valley, and Clarence Valley.
State: South Australia
Number of properties: 97,274
Number of high-risk properties: 10,775
Percentage of high-risk properties: 11.1%
Hindmarsh consists of Port Adelaide, Charles Strut, and parts of Port Adelaide Enfield and West Torrens. Flooding is the biggest hazard property owners in the electorate are facing. By the end of the decade, 9.5% and 1.2% of residential and commercial buildings there will uninsurable because of riverine and pluvial flooding, respectively.