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Scientific Psychic
2007-09-17
 

Global warming will increase your insurance

Ice-Free Arctic Ocean An ice-free Arctic Ocean

Earlier this month, the European Space Agency released satellite photos showing an ice-free passage in the Arctic Ocean along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland. The amount of ice in the polar region is at its lowest level since 1978, when NASA first started getting images of the Arctic. The melting of the polar ice has been attributed to climate changes caused by an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by our industrialized society. Most of our energy is derived from fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum which generate carbon dioxide when they burn.

There are still many people who do not believe that global warming is a cause for concern, but researchers predict that the climate change by 2050 will place a large number of species at risk of extinction. The organisms affected will include corals, seals, and polar bears. Humans are so widely distributed that they will not face extinction, but many people will lose their homes.

If all the ice in Greenland melts, the sea level will rise by 7 meters (23 feet), and low-lying islands, such as the Maldives, will be swallowed by the sea. Parts of Bangladesh will become uninhabitable and create a humanitarian catastrophe as millions of people lose their homes and the fields on which they grow their food. New Orleans and the southern half of Florida will be underwater. Miami will disappear under the sea like the legendary city of Atlantis. Even a one-meter rise in sea level would be very damaging to the cities on the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard of the United States.

Insurance companies have been paying close attention to these scientific predictions and adjusting their rates accordingly. During a trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks, I read a story in a local paper about a man who had bought a beautiful house by the shore many years ago. He had always thought of the house as a nest egg which would finance his retirement. Before he could sell, he was notified by his insurance company that the land on which the house was built had been recategorized as having a high risk of flooding and that his insurance would not be renewed. This also meant that any prospective buyers would not be able to get a mortgage to buy the house because they could not get insurance either. This is a story that is likely to be repeated many times as the sea level continues to rise.

Can we do anything about global warming? It is probably too late to do anything to prevent the Arctic from melting, but our individual actions could be significant.

See the Timeline of the Earth and flooding predictions


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