The director of thinly-veiled climate crisis allegory Don’t Look Up has said that his home insurance was cancelled due to climate-linked disasters.
Adam McKay, whose hit film chronicles an astronomy student’s doomed campaign to persuade world leaders to stop a huge comet from hitting Earth, said on Friday that he was one of the growing number of Americans whose insurers had baulked at the cost of global warming.
“Just had my home insurance cancelled because Southern California is at too high risk now for fire and floods,” he tweeted, including an emoji of a comet. “This shit is real and happening right now. #EndFossilFuels #DontLookUp”.
The Golden State has suffered unusually severe wildfires and droughts in recent years, which scientists believe are partly driven by global warming. In some years California’s insurers paid out $1.70 for every dollar they took in premiums.
Other states are also affected, with annual premiums rapidly rising in Florida and Louisiana, both coastal states vulnerable to climate change-linked flooding. The Insurance Information Institute has said that the number of homeowners enrolled in state-sponsored insurance programmes such as California’s FAIR plan is also growing.
2021 was the third most costly year for natural disasters in more than two centuries, behind only 2017 and 2005, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). The agency logged 20 different climate events causing more than a billion dollars of damage, totalling $145bn (£106bn).
Many home insurance plans do not include natural disasters, and some towns hit by hurricanes in 2020 have since suffered sharp spikes in mortgage delinquency rates as residents struggle to afford repairs or extra insurance premiums. Some plans even cover natural disasters but not “named storms”, meaning hurricanes big enough to receive a name.
The crisis has led California’s state government to impose “temporary” one year moratoriums on insurance cancellation for three years running. The bans only affect specific areas, and it’s not clear whether McKay’s home is in one of them.
“Losing your insurance should be the last thing on someone’s mind after surviving a devastating fire,” said insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara in 2020. “My action gives millions of Californians breathing room and hits the pause button on insurance non-renewals while we take additional steps to expand our competitive market.”
The White House is also concerned, issuing a 40-page plan to reform the insurance and housing markets. “If this year has shown us anything, it’s that climate change poses an ongoing urgent and systemic risk to our economy and to the lives and livelihoods of everyday Americans,” said the president’s climate adviser Gina McCarthy.