Rising insurance rates due to an increase in extreme weather events are driving some Florida residents out of coastal areas, a county official told a Senate hearing Wednesday morning.
“There is a lot of conversation of people needing to move out of the area because they can’t afford their insurance options that allow them to afford their mortgage payment that allow them to stay in their homes,” said Jennifer Jurado, the chief resilience officer for Broward County, Fla.
Other witnesses at the hearing told of similar experiences.
“The insurance rates are an issue, mine went from $2,000 to $5,000,” said Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who lives in California.
In states such as Florida, insurance has become increasingly expensive, with some insurance companies going bankrupt, leaving residents to turn to state-backed options.
“The options are significantly reduced,” Jurado said. “The costs are escalating beyond a level of affordability, and I think it’s one of the most treacherous conditions affecting homeownership.”
Lower-income Americans are at an especially great risk for the threats posted by climate change and related extreme weather events.
“The very poor are indeed the most vulnerable because they are the least able to recover from these kinds of events,” Wehner said.
The rising insurance rates mean residents are struggling to cover other costs, such as utilities. “Many are struggling with how to provide air conditioning just to sleep through the night,” Jurado said.
Wednesday’s hearing was focused on how federal legislation can help confront the sprawling impacts of climate change.
Wehner, the climate scientist, touted the promise of “extreme weather attribution science,” which seeks to prove links between a changing climate and particularly destructive events.
“Such quantitative understanding can aid decision-makers in increasing the resilience of our society to a future, yet warmer world,” Wehner said.
Senators tried to strike an optimistic tone on the potential for actions that help counter the worst effects of climate change.
“While climate change is driving extreme weather, we are not helpless,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) “This situation is not hopeless. Working together we can prevent the worst impacts of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Despite the doom and gloom around climate change, I think there are reasons to be optimistic,” added Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R- W.Va.). “American innovation will rise to the occasion.”