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Wild weather: Better get used to it

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Extreme weather events like the once-in-a-century floods in Townsville are becoming the “new normal” in Australia as the planet becomes hotter, the Climate Council says in a report released today.

Insurers have now received 6525 claims totaling $80 million from the devastating floods, but the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) warns the figures are “rising by the hour”.

The Climate Council’s “Weather Gone Wild” report predicts bushfires, flash flooding and the likes will only increase in intensity and frequency if efforts are not stepped up to halt man-made pollution.

“We are experiencing climate change right now across Australia, from flooding in Townsville to bushfires in Victoria and Tasmania,” said CEO Amanda McKenzie.

And the country may be running out of time to tackle the climate threat.

“We have the solutions at our disposal but there’s only a tiny window of opportunity left to tackle climate change,” Head of Research Martin Rice said.

The report says insurers paid out more than $1.2 billion in claims linked to extreme weather last year.

It says weather disasters in 2017 cost the industry $2.7 billion, including $1.77 billion from Cyclone Debbie.

The current drought in eastern Australia, which scientists say is exacerbated by climate change, will likely cost the economy $12.5 billion or up to 0.75% of GDP this financial year.

IAG says the report’s findings highlight the “impact and cost” of changing weather patterns for Australian communities.

More mitigation is the answer, says IAG, which is a member of the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience & Safer Communities.

“As an insurer, we see first-hand the damaging consequences of the effects of climate events on people and communities. We’ve witnessed this through changing weather patterns, urbanisation and coastal development,” an IAG spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Investment in disaster resilience and preventative activities is the most effective way to protect communities and reduce the impact of disasters.

“Early risk identification and mitigation is key in building disaster resilience and should be integrated into decision-making for new infrastructure. Disaster resilience requires effective collaboration between governments, businesses and communities.”

ICA today supported IAG’s stand, telling insuranceNEWS.com.au it will “consider all credible reports that seek to encourage a greater understanding of the impact that climate change may have on Australian communities”.