Science

An Act of God? The European countries where homeowners should be most worried about climate change

2022 has brought home the climate crisis for Europeans like no other year.

It may be a “watcher” to the new normal, say researchers behind a new study showing that the fire season reached a record ‘area burned’ in some regions of southwestern Europe.

The continent probably also suffered its worst drought 500 years followed this summer by dangerous flash floods in some places.

And more and more data is coming in about the deadly toll of this extreme weather. For example, French authorities just estimated that the year’s heat waves caused an excess of 2,816 deaths.

In addition to danger to life, people are increasingly concerned about their home.

Considering the possible consequences for the insurance industry, UK comparison site ComparetheMarket has compiled a list of the 10 European countries where homes are most vulnerable.

Which European countries are most at risk of climate-related damage to homes?

Spain tops the list of most climate-sensitive countries, losing as much as 4,185 acres (1,694 hectares) of land to forest fires per year, according to analysts’ calculations.

They looked at a number of factors to give each country a total climate score, and Spain was also pushed to the top of the list by its air pollution levels.

But it is Portugal that suffers the most forest fires, with an average of 6,039 acres (2,444 hectares) of land burned each year. Inevitably, some homes are located in high-risk areas.

Serbia is the European country most at risk of flooding due to heavy rainfall, with an average of 1.4 floods due to downpours per year. This makes the country number one for flood-related home damage.

Overall, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked second on ComparetheMarket’s list, due to both a high number of fires and flooding.

And the UK came third, boosted by poor air quality and high levels of pollution.

The most vulnerable English cities

The UK price comparison website has also taken a closer look at English cities to see where people are most in need of insuring their buildings and contents.

It found Kingston upon Hull in the most precarious position, with 90 per cent of its residents threatened by flooding from the River Hull or the Humber Estuary.

Leeds came second, with the highest average rainfall levels per year at 88mm, followed by Plymouth, Manchester and Preston.

London, Nottingham and Derby are most at risk from riverine flooding, while Southend-on-Sea is most at risk from surface water flooding.

How do you protect your home from flooding?

ComparetheMarket advises homeowners in flood-prone areas to replace wood floors with more sustainable alternatives such as ceramic tile. It is also wise to place sockets and appliances off the floor.

The price comparison website says that shutters or reflective blinds are a good way to counteract the heat from the sun in high temperatures, reducing the risk of sun damage and to burn.

Securing fences, doors and posts is important in high winds.

Of course, the company also has some words of caution when it comes to insurance companies.

It advises people in high-risk areas to “make sure your home insurance policy covers flood damage to both the building and contents, as this level of coverage varies between providers.”

Does home insurance cover climate change?

Comparethemarket’s home insurance team says, “There is still a common misconception that insurance companies include a force majeure clause in their policies to avoid paying claims.”

While this was once common practice, times have changed and providers are often much clearer about what is and what is not included in your policy, it says.

“If a natural disaster, such as a fire, flood or storm damages your home, your home insurance policy may cover you. That said, your policy probably has exclusions and won’t cover you for all contingencies.

But, as always, be sure to read the fine print and read sections related to natural disasters carefully.

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