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Changing Weather Patterns

The first tropical storm of the year is making big news as it approaches Florida. Of course, it probably won’t amount to much — tropical storms are common and not that damaging — but after the weather of last year, every extreme weather event will be in the headlines.

Anyone who thinks that climate change is not impacting the American economy, or who thinks that Katrina is an old story and the area has moved on, should read about the pathetic insurance company payouts many homeowners are receiving for their fully insured homes. Think of owners with homes insured for millions, gutted by floodwater, receiving $10,000. In classic style, the insurance companies are finding obscure clauses and technicalities in legal text of the policies in order to justify denying payment.

I can practically hear the voices on the phone now. “Oh certainly, sir, you’re completely covered for hurricane damage — but not floods.”

Insurance companies are beginning to wash their hands of the area, claiming that almost all the Hurricane Katrina claims have been settled. But their definition of “settled” is that some money has been paid to the homeowner; whether or not that money is enough to rebuild is not considered. To make matters worse, the insurance companies in that area are reporting record profits. Still, they know that they cannot set a precedent of paying out too much. Insurance works on the idea that many people pay for policies but only a few make large claims, so when entire swaths of clients make large claims at once, the structure becomes unsustainable.

It’s important to notice that many of the people who are receiving inadequate insurance and are now unable to rebuild are quite well-off. These are often nice homes in upscale neighborhoods. Many of these people may now choose to move away and find somewhere else to rebuild their careers and homes; the Louisiana area, already rife with poverty, will become statistically even poorer.

Katrina may have given us the first glimpse of something that will become all too familiar as the climate continues to change. Weather patterns will make some areas uninhabitable, and cause people to pick up and move elsewhere. Right now, the US is more than able to accommodate thousands or even millions of people moving away from Louisiana and the Gulf coast. Eventually, however, as the number of bad weather areas increase and the safe areas decrease, this will lead to anger, resentment, and a destroyed economy for all.

No wonder those who live in Florida and the Gulf Coast are watching the darkening skies over warming water with great apprehension.

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