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CHGE: Climate Change Futures

Editors: Paul R. Epstein, and Evan Mills
November 1, 2005


The Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School discusses the health, ecological, and economic dimensions of climate change in this report.


What was once a worst-case scenario for the US Gulf Coast occurred in August 2005. Hurricane Katrina killed hundreds and sickened thousands, created one million displaced persons, and sent ripples throughout the global economy, exposing the vulnerabilities of all nations to climate extremes.

While no one event is conclusive evidence of climate change, the relentless pace of severe weather — prolonged droughts, intense heat waves, violent windstorms, more wildfires and more frequent “100-year” floods — is indicative of a changing climate. Although the associations among greater weather volatility, natural cycles and climate change are debated, the rise in mega-catastrophes and prolonged widespread heat waves is, at the very least, a harbinger of what we can expect in a changing and unstable climate.

For the insurance sector, climate change threatens the Life & Health and Property & Casualty businesses, as well as the health of insurers’ investments. Managing and transferring risks are the first responses of the insurance industry — and rising insurance premiums and exclusions are already making front-page news. Many corporations are changing practices and some are seizing business opportunities for products aimed at reducing risks. Corporations and institutional investors have begun to consider public policies needed to encourage investments in clean energy on a scale commensurate with the heightened climate and energy crises.

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