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New combatant against global warming: insurance industry

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One reason for this massive change in coverage is an ongoing shift in the way insurance companies view risk. Insurers are starting to change their risk-assessment models to reflect future climate-change scenarios instead of past weather patterns.

"Climate change represents an ever- increasing risk, a risk far too great to ignore," says Clement Booth, a member of the Board of Management at Allianz AG, one of the world's largest insurance firms.

This week, Allianz, in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund, issued a report on steps the insurance industry could take to reduce the physical impact of global warming or to help society adapt.

"The industry is in a unique position to incentivize," says Miranda Anderson, an author of the report and a vice president at David Gardiner & Associates. "This is the very beginning of thinking through this issue."

In fact, the industry is not driven just by an attempt to help the environment: It also wants to make money. In Travelers' case, the impetus to give a policy discount on hybrid cars came when Greg Toczydlowski, a senior vice president of product management, was gassing up his wife's Ford Excursion.

"A hybrid zipped in and out while I was still pumping, and it occurred to me it takes so little gasoline and runs so much longer on a tank," says Mr. Toczydlowski. "I came back and did research on how many hybrids are out there and what's the profile of the customer. We discovered it was a preferred customer – middle-aged, very responsible, and stable financially."

Now hybrid owners, besides saving on their fuel bills, can save money on their auto insurance – about $100 a year, according to Travelers.

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