TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Governments and insurance companies in Europe must do more to prepare people for floods linked to climate change as it’s often more efficient to reduce risks before disasters than rebuild and pay out afterwards, an Austrian study said on Monday.
The report by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) said increasingly fierce floods linked to climate change presented a unique problem for insurers as it could affect large areas at the same time with massive costs.
Researcher Susanne Hanger said if disaster insurance was not mandatory, only people in very high risk areas were likely to purchase it, meaning private companies were unlikely to want to provide the service.
Under these conditions Hanger said governments and private firms needed to work together to provide insurance options for residents - and authorities should invest more in building resilience before disasters strike.
“It is a fairly recent trend to support better risk-preparedness (before disasters),” Hanger told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.
“This will be exceedingly important considering extreme events from climate change ... Currently neither insurance nor governments successfully encourage risk reduction.”
The study analyzed data from Austria, England and Romania but did not provide data on the expected cost of climate change related flooding or insurance payouts.
Providing compensation to residents affected by floods has little impact on individuals’ willingness to make personal risk reduction plans like installing guard walls to protect their homes from water damage, the study said.
Previously, many experts believed government aid packages for flood victims would mean individuals did not invest in preparedness as they expected authorities to provide compensation if disaster struck.
But in Austria residents have taken more measures to protect their homes from flooding than the other two countries, despite assistance being available post-disaster for homeowners from a government catastrophe fund.
Reporting by Chris Arsenault @chrisarsenaul, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org