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How the insurance industry could help change climate skeptics’ minds

hurricane michael satellite image
The costly cleanup after disasters, like Hurricane Michael (pictured here), are driving up insurance rates in areas likely to be hit by extreme weather.

This week, Stateside has been bringing you a series of conversations about the recent National Climate Assessment, a report compiled by 13 federal agencies that breaks down how climate change is projected to impact different regions of the United States.

Andrew Hoffman is a the Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He joined Stateside to talk about the risk climate change poses to the economy, and how that risk might help convince people skeptical about climate change to change their mind. 

Hoffman says that the report helps erode the psychological distance people often place between themselves and climate change by making it clear that its effects will be widespread — and expensive. 

“This costs money, and someone has to pay for it. And that will make people sit up and notice,” Hoffman said. 

For example, the insurance industry has already started making major changes due to our warming climate, resulting in rising costs for people who live in areas likely to be hit by extreme weather. 

"The number of natural disasters has tripled since 1990. This isn't science data. It's data from Munich Re, an insurance company in Switzerland," Hoffman said. 

Hoffman predicts that Michigan's tourism industry will be also be impacted by climate change in coming years.

“This state is all about water. It’s part of our identity. If there becomes problems with access — certainly as temperatures rise, algae blooms happen. Who wants to go to the beach in a state that has algae blooms?” asked Hoffman. 

Despite the often dire projections made by the National Climate Assessment and other climate change forecasts, Hoffman remains optimistic.

“A lot can happen between now and 2100. So you can look at the science and say, ‘If nothing changes, this is where we’re going.’ But people can change, societies can change, and they can change rather quickly when properly motivated,” Hoffman said.

Listen to Stateside’s full conversation with Andrew Hoffman to hear more about how climate change is affecting the agriculture and oil sectors, and what he thinks about President Trump's questioning of climate change science.

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