New Brunswick

Climate change concerns raised by insurance industry

Canada's largest insurance companies are warning homeowners and governments about their concerns about changing weather patterns.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada is warning citizens to take climate change concerns seriously 2:18

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is warning people of the "unequivocal" evidence of climate change and is urging the public and governments to take the changing weather patterns seriously.

Experts called flooding in southwestern New Brunswick in late 2010 a once-in-a-century event but insurance companies aren't so sure those forecasts will hold up.

Don Forgeron, the president and chief executive officer of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, spoke to a business audience in Saint John on Wednesday about the problem of climate change.

The insurance industry is beginning to openly blame a rash of worldwide weather damage, such as the New Brunswick floods, on climate change.

Forgeron said 2010 was the second warmest year since 1948 in Atlantic Canada.

He said people need to be prepared for more issues related to the changing climate.

"Our weather patterns have changed. If we just look back over the last 30 years or so here in Canada we see the trend is unequivocal," Forgeron said.

"The number of severe weather events double every 5 to 10 years.  We've got to do something about it."

The changing climate may mean governments need to rethink development policies.

Last year, Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney opened up large areas of the province identified as flood prone wetland to development.

It is  a policy that does not anticipate worsening flood conditions that Forgeron said insurers believe are coming

"For far too long, we've allowed construction in areas we just shouldn't and with what we know today. I do think this is an area government's need to take a serious look," he said.

Forgeron said insurers are just now remapping flood prone areas in the wake of the industry's climate change concerns.

He said insurance companies will then make decisions on what to do about insurance premiums in areas considered more at risk than previously believed.

Ronald Godin, the province’s consumer advocate for insurance, said last April that he feared homeowners could see significant increases in insurance in the future.

He said damage inflicted by climate-related events has taken over from fire damage as the top source of insurance claims.