Snow, ice and some of the most frigid temperatures in decades in the southern United States will produce insured losses “in the billions of dollars,” Moody’s said in new commentary released on Feb. 17.
Texas was particularly affected by the Feb. 15 storm, and vulnerable insurers there who do the most homeowners business include State Farm, Allstate, USAA, Farmers and Liberty Mutual. Top commercial property insurers who are the most exposed in Texas include Liberty Mutual, Travelers, Texas Windstorm, Chubb and AIG, according to data cited by Moody’s.
Moody’s predicts massive insured losses in claims from homeowners, commercial property and auto lines due to snow, ice and historically frigid temperatures in Texas and elsewhere in the southern U.S. As the event just happened, detailed dollar amounts will take some time to calculate.
Those storms, Moody’s noted, have led to loss of life, property damage and massive power outages. Causes of property damage in the storm include snow, flooding, and water damage from frozen and broken pipes.
Moody’s noted that homeowners and commercial property insurance policies don’t typically cover losses from natural floods, but insurers typically cover floods stemming from broken pipes inside insured buildings.
Overall the storm’s path placed 39 of 48 continental U.S. states to fall under some sort of winter weather advisory or storm alert, according to AIR Worldwide. That’s the largest region to fall under w winter storm warning since 2005, according to the Verisk-owned firm.
The White House said on Thursday a severe winter storm engulfing Texas and nearby states was the type of extreme weather event that climate change is triggering, rejecting assertions by Texas officials that “green energy” caused widespread power outages.
The crisis in the largest U.S. oil- and gas-producing state has put Democratic President Joe Biden’s White House squarely at odds with Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who initially did not acknowledge Biden’s 2020 election win.
Abbott had ordered state officials in January to fight Biden’s push here to combat climate change by pausing new oil and gas leases, and cutting fossil fuel subsidies.
“The extreme weather events that we’re experiencing this week … do yet again demonstrate to us that climate change is real and it’s happening now, and we’re not adequately prepared for it,” she told a White House phone briefing.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden also spoke two days ago with Abbott, who came under fire this week after initially blaming the crisis on Democratic efforts to transition to green energy sources and away from fossil fuels.
She noted that the Texas agency that operates the state’s power grid itself had said that failures in solar and wind power were the “least significant factor in the blackout.”
People who deny that severe winter can be linked to climate change are displaying “complete ignorance,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday, days after the U.S. state of Texas was first hit by a historic and deadly deep freeze.
When asked if global warming played a role in the severe U.S. weather, Guterres said that climate change could make “all storms, all oscillations … more extreme.”Scientists widely agree that climate change is fueling wilder weather worldwide, including stronger hurricanes, more intense heat waves and more erratic rainfall patterns.
Determining whether climate change is behind a single weather event, such as this week’s extreme cold in Texas, is trickier; scientists can investigate the climate link in a weather event, but that will reveal only how much more likely the event was to occur.“If you look at hurricanes, if you look at storms, but also if you look at heat waves and cold waves, they are becoming more extreme because of climate change,” Guterres told reporters. “Climate change amplifies.”
When people claimed that severely cold weather was evidence that global warming wasn’t happening, he said, “this is total lack of scientific knowledge, this is complete ignorance.”
Scientists say climate change – specifically the rapid warming of the Arctic – could be a factor in this week’s chill in Texas, though more scientific research would be needed to confirm any link.