CCC News & Insights

May 3, 2022

How Will the P&C Insurance Economy Weather the Impacts of Climate Change?

In 2021, more than four in 10 Americans lived in a county hit by climate-related extreme weather, and 80 percent lived in places that experienced a multi-day heat wave.[1] The cost of these disasters has added up substantially and so far in 2022 there’s little relief on the horizon.Historically, extreme weather events are less frequent in the first quarter of most calendar years, but Aon Benfield estimates Q1 2022 was the sixth consecutive year with more $10 billion in insured losses. Their early estimates for Q1 2022 suggest globally severe weather events resulted in $32 billion in overall economic losses, $14 billion of which is covered public and private insurers.[2]Six billion dollars of the Q1 2022 global economic losses were estimated to have come from weather events in the U.S. – predominantly by severe convective storms and tornadoes in the month of March 2022.Damage from convective storms has become nearly as expensive as hurricanes, according to RMS, with the average annual U.S. loss incurred at nearly $17 billion, with hail losses contributing as much as 50 to 80 percent of severe convective losses in any given year.[3] Warm temperatures and unusual changes to the jet stream are leading to more extreme weather events like the devastating tornadoes on December 10-11, 2021 that spanned six states and included a single tornado with the longest path on record of about 250 miles.According to AccuWeather, the months of March, April, and May tend to see the most powerful storms and large twisters, like the EF4 tornado that hit Des Moines, Iowa over March 5-6, 2022.[4]  March 21-23, 2022, a large tornado outbreak struck the southern region of the U.S., with strong tornadoes touching down near College Station, Austin and Houston, Texas metro areas and another supercell hitting the New Orleans metro area.‘Tornado Alley’, the region of the southern Plains to the northern Plains encompassing central Texas, much of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, parts of eastern Colorado and NM, and parts of Iowa, has historically seen the most tornado activity. However, more recently, tornado activity has expanded further east towards Mississippi and Tennessee valleys.[5]Unsurprisingly, ‘Hail Alley’ and ‘Tornado Alley’ overlap quite a bit. ‘Hail Alley’ is the region stretching from Wyoming to Texas that has historically suffered the most significant hail activity, and climate change is expected to push hailstorms to become more frequent and drop larger ice pellets here.[6] Hail losses primarily occur in Q2 and Q3 each year (Figure 1), but Q1 activity has also been picking up in places like Iowa where over 10 percent of all appraisals written in March 2022 were for vehicles with hail damage (Figure 2).

With more vehicles equipped with technologies like ADAS, average vehicle repair costs have climbed – and hail losses are not immune. For example, windshield replacements have become more complicated, with scan and calibration operations now often included as part of the repair. In fact, over 12 percent of the overall repair cost for hail repairs were for ‘miscellaneous’ where charges for sublet and scan and calibration operations commonly appear.And unfortunately, as the temperature of the globe increases, increased claim frequency and costs from severe weather seems like they’re here to stay.Learn more about climate change and other factors driving claims frequency in our Crash Course Report.[1] Sarah Kaplan and Andrew Ba Tran.  “More than 40 percent of Americans live in counties hit by climate disasters in 2021.” Washington Post, January 5, 2022.[2] Aon Benfield. “Q1 Global Catastrophe Recap.”  April 2022.[3] Insurance Information Institute. “Severe Convective Storms: Evolving risks call for innovation to reduce costs, drive resilience.” May 2020.[4][5][6]