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Liberty Specialty Markets

Australians to suffer more extreme weather events: IAG

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Climate change will result in more frequent and intense extreme weather events across Australia, resulting in greater property, personal and economic damage, warns IAG’s latest Severe Weather in a Changing Climate report.

The report provides a comprehensive understanding of how climate change is affecting different parts of Australia and highlights property risk perils at regional and local levels.

Bushfire risk will increase nationally, the report predicts, while tropical cyclones will move further inland and be more destructive and the east coast of Australia will be particularly vulnerable to severe flash and river flooding.

“We cannot prevent these events from happening, but we can do more to prepare communities and make them more resilient,” the report, which is an update on research issued in November prepared with US-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), says.

Since November, Australia has experienced many of these extreme events, including devastating bushfires, floods, east coast lows and hailstorms, IAG notes.

IAG CEO and MD Peter Harmer says extreme weather events affect Australian communities financially, socially and psychologically.

“The science is clear that in a warmer climate these events will become more frequent and more destructive and this is why it’s crucial we work collaboratively to mitigate these events and ensure we are prepared,” he said.

Insurers have already paid more than $3.85 billion in claims to date for four of these major weather events alone, including the summer bushfires, the South East Queensland hailstorms in November, hailstorms across NSW, ACT and VIC in January, and storms across the east coast in February, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

IAG’s report says bushfire risk will increase across almost all locations nationally and Australia will experience longer fire seasons and this will reduce the amount of time able to be spent on mitigation such as hazard burns.

Australia will experience fewer tropical cyclones but those that do hit will move further inland and be more destructive. Cyclones will also move south towards regions that typically haven’t experienced these types of events, such as south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales.

This threatens densely populated areas of the eastern Australian coastline and raises the importance of mitigation action.

Hailstorms with large to giant hail – from 2 centimetres to above 5 centimetres in diameter - have already increased in frequency over south-east Australia. In a warmer climate, the areas most at risk of these hailstorms will be further south including Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Melbourne.

Large-sized hail risks will particularly increase in an area from the Hunter River through to the southern NSW Highlands, as well as in parts of Victoria.

The east coast of Australia will be particularly vulnerable to severe flash and river flooding due to an increase in intense rainfall coupled with increased impacts from east coast lows and the southward expansion of the areas at risk of tropical cyclones, the report says.

The research is based on the latest climate data and extreme weather event predictions, based on a range of warming temperatures, up to 3 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.