Unless further action is taken, the effects of climate change are likely to have “significant consequences” for life and health re/insurers, who will have to deal with increase risks from heatwaves, floods, droughts, fires and vector-borne diseases.
This is according to a new report from Swiss Re, which linked climate change directly to a number of global health risks, and indirectly to other relevant threats.
“Millions of lives can be saved and the burden on healthcare services reduced if we pay more heed to changing climates,” the report stated.
“Without action, mortality rates and healthcare costs could soar, and this would have significant consequences for the health, workersʼ compensation and life insurance lines of business.”
One of the move visible impacts will be an increase in the severity and geography of heatwaves, Swiss Re suggested, which, combined with rapidly ageing populations, could pose a serious risk to elderly people in effected regions.
Rising temperatures and high humidity may also extend the transmission season and geographical range for many vector-borne diseases, while thawing permafrosts could lead to the release of older bacteria and viruses.
Severe drought conditions could also lead to an increase in global wildfire risk and air pollution, as is evident from the California wildfires in 2018.
Additionally, the potential knock-on effects of climate change, such as migration, urbanisation, food security & nutrition, and water scarcity, may pose serious challenges for life & health re/insurers in future, Swiss Re indicated.
Already today, more than 2 billion people live in areas of water stress, areas where access to clean water for drinking, sanitation and personal hygiene is limited, and this is expected to increase as temperatures rise.
With continued sea level rise, storm surges may reach further inland, causing further insured and economic damages to cities (where value is becoming increasingly concentrated) and potentially triggering epidemics or other public health issues such as toxic mould.
“The immediate public health activities necessary to meet the challenge of climate change are to strengthen the prevention of climate-sensitive health risks and to build an adaptive skill set to absorb the changing, increasing risks presented by climate change described before,” Swiss Re concluded.
“Health care facilities in poor and rich countries alike must be able to deliver in changing climate conditions, such as during extreme weather events,” it added. “Cooling systems during heat days, flood security, emergency power and water supplies must become standard in health care facilities worldwide.”