Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

What Your Insurer Is Trying to Tell You About Climate Change

| Aug. 28, 2023

Insurers are trying to send a message. The government is trying to suppress it.

Having worked for decades in conservation nonprofits, Beth Pratt, who lives high in the Sierra Foothills in Midpines, California, understands how climate change is putting her home at ever greater risk. Her community is experiencing what she calls "climate whiplash": forest fires, record heat, massive snow dumps, mudslides, rockslides, and even a tornado.

When Pratt, now 54, bought her 1,400-square-foot house in 1999, she thought the setting was ideal: on a big lot near Yosemite National Park. As recently as a decade ago, she told me by Zoom one recent morning, she didn't particularly worry about wildfires—a problem that now plagues her area with disturbing frequency. Pratt said she has been forced to evacuate three times.

Making her best effort at "coexisting with fire," as she put it, Pratt had metal roofing installed atop her house. To clear combustible material from around its perimeter, she learned how to cut trees with a chainsaw and to carefully incinerate heaps of wood debris. "I finally got comfortable doing my own burn pile, which took me a while," she said. "I mean, lighting a fire can be a little scary, right?" Pratt has gone to enormous lengths to protect her house....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“What Your Insurer Is Trying to Tell You About Climate Change.” The Atlantic, August 28, 2023.

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