Australia’s election: How the climate is making the country more uninhabitable
Sam Bowstead is an architect who specialises in building disaster-resistant homes. When his Brisbane home was flooded in February, he felt helpless.
He says, “I’ve dealt with folks who have been in similar situations, and now this has happened to me.”
“I was taken aback by how quickly [the water] rose… more than a meter in just a few hours. From being concerned about our stuff, I became concerned about our safety.”
In the end, the only way out was via boat.
Mr. Bowstead’s story is becoming more prevalent among Australians.
Over 500 people and billions of animals have died as a result of record-breaking bushfires and floods in the last three years. Communities have been ravaged by drought, cyclones, and unexpected tides.
Climate change is a major issue for Australian voters in Saturday’s election. The expense of living is also rising, and these challenges are colliding like never before.
According to a Climate Council assessment, Australia is facing a “insurability catastrophe,” with one in every 25 homes on pace to be essentially uninsurable by 2030. Another one out of every eleven people is at risk of being underinsured.
Climate change is making it more difficult to insure properties in some parts of Australia
According to the Climate Council, which built an interactive map for Australians to search, insurance for the highest-risk residences will be unreasonably expensive or refused by providers.
“Climate change is happening right now in Australia, and many Australians are now unable to insure their homes and companies,” says CEO Amanda McKenzie.
The most vulnerable state
This is a particularly serious problem in Queensland. It is home to about 40% of the estimated 500,000 residences that will be essentially uninsurable.
Floods have wreaked havoc on Queensland in recent months. Brisbane, the state capital, received more than 70% of its annual rainfall in just three days in February.
Michelle Vine, whose East Brisbane home was destroyed along with decades of her artwork, adds, “I still feel pretty traumatised when it rains severely.”
“We had to leave since the house had become unlivable.”
According to insurers, the floods, which also hit New South Wales, will be Australia’s most costly flood disaster ever. Insurance premiums were already increasing prior to this year.
Though soaring house prices are one issue, climate change is blamed by Australia’s peak insurance industry organisation.
No sections of Australia are now uninsurable, according to the Insurance Council of Australia, but there are “obviously affordability and availability difficulties.”
The amount paid out by insurance on natural disaster damage claims has almost doubled in the last decade.
Home insurance premiums are nearly four times higher currently than they were in 2004.
‘A Catch-22 situation for young people’
According to Climate Valuation, a risk research firm, the phenomena might worsen social inequality and produce “climate ghettos.”
Property in higher-risk places is becoming more affordable to buy and rent, attracting those who can least afford sufficient insurance and therefore exacerbating the financial effect of disasters.
“People in Australia are not fleeing climate-vulnerable areas. In reality, they are more likely to move into major cities on the outskirts of them “Liz Allen, a demographer at the Australian National University, agrees.
“People in Australia regard climate catastrophe as practically a bargain, a method to assure that they can have a home to call their own,” says the report.
Ms Vine is an example of this, claiming that pricing drew her to a susceptible location. She felt like she’d “win the lotto” at the time. Mr Bowstead made the same decision, calling it “a Catch-22… for young people.”
And once in a dangerous location, many people find it difficult to leave, as Gary Godley discovered in Grantham, west of Brisbane.
There are no takers for his house because of Grantham’s horrible flood history, which claimed the lives of 12 people in 2011.
“We want to leave. We simply cannot afford it “Mr. Godley explains. “There’s nothing we can do.”
So what are the options?
The government has pledged billions to help insurers “reinsure” themselves against catastrophic disaster claims, claiming that this will reduce costs for households in northern Australia.
However, it is a dangerous policy that neither the Australian Insurance Council nor the country’s industry watchdog wanted.
Critics have pointed out that disasters are now wreaking havoc in locations outside of northern Australia, which the policy will not cover. How about their insurance premiums?
Instead, they want the government to restrict building in high-risk regions, consider buying out certain homeowners, and provide incentives for families to make their homes disaster-proof.
But, as Dr. Settle points out, the obvious solution is to address climate change, despite the fact that successive administrations have been hesitant to do so.
The coal issue
The majority of Australians want stricter climate action, but neither party has spoken out about it throughout the election campaign.
The rationale for this avoidance is obvious in Gladstone, which is located in a marginal seat in central Queensland.
Gladstone relies heavily on coal. It’s delivered from a nearby port and has helped Australia become the world’s second-largest exporter, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
Local Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union official Phil Golby believes “change is unavoidable,” but is concerned that fossil fuel workers may be left behind.
“There has been a lot of discussion. I’ve listened to a number of presentations, but I’m still looking for a clear way “Mr. Golby explains.
In essence, coal is caught in the middle of Australia’s economics, politics, and environmental threats.
As a result, phase-out of fossil fuels is a politically poisonous issue that no major political party wants to confront head-on, especially during an election year.
Mr Bowstead is irritated by this. He, like many other young people, is concerned about the impact of climate change on how and where they will live in the future.