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Climate Change Making Homes Harder to Insure; Noem Thinks South Dakota Will Benefit?

It’s no wonder Governor Kristi Noem doesn’t want to do anything about climate change. She’s gambling that burning up the planet will make living in other places too dangerous and expensive while somehow leaving South Dakota habitable and affordable.

Consider that climate change just helped drive State Farm to join Allstate in refusing home insurance applications from Californians:

Insuring property in California has been a dicey proposition in recent years. Torrential rainfall this past winter caused as much as $1.5 billion in insured losses this year. The state has also suffered the costliest wildfires in US history, including the 2018 Camp Fire, which led to more than $10 billion in losses.

Human action is driving many of these risks. Real estate prices have been rising in California for decades, and populations are growing in the places most vulnerable to burning and flooding. Decades of suppressing natural fires have allowed fuel for wildfires to accumulate to dangerously high levels. Humans are also heating up the planet, lifting sea levels, amplifying downpours, and exacerbating the conditions for massive blazes.

So when disasters do occur, they cause extraordinary damage to lives, livelihoods, and property. These threats have led insurance companies to drop existing policies or stop issuing new coverage. “It’s not just the risk of loss but the magnitude of loss when a California house burns down,” said Dave Jones, who served as California’s insurance commissioner from 2011 until 2018. “That trend has only gotten worse over time.”

State Farm isn’t the first insurance company to cut back in California, and states like Louisiana and Florida have also seen insurers decline coverage due to mounting catastrophic losses. “We’re steadily marching toward an uninsurable future, not just in California but throughout the United States,” said Jones, who now leads the Climate Risk Initiative at the University of California Berkeley School of Law [Umair Irfan, “Climate Change Is Already Making Parts of America Uninsurable,” Vox, 2023.06.05].

Maybe the lack of home insurance will reverse California’s proportional popularity with migrants and draw more coastal refugees to South Dakota. But the cheaper houses they’ll find here will still be subject to the heavier downpours and harder derechos. And letting climate change wreck major portions of the planet just to improve the chances of drawing migrants smells like a dangerous metastasis of the “What, us change?” thinking that led South Dakota to advertise itself eight years ago as a better place to live than Mars.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-06-08 06:43

    New Mexico and Montana are next.

    County commissions are infamous for rubber-stamping new homebuilding in the wildland-urban interface and like most Republicans in the Mountain West they are among the first blaming environmentalists for bringing science-based decision-making to forest policy.

    Utilities, insurers, county commissions, lenders and developers need to be held accountable for building tinder boxes packed so closely together that homeowners can see into each others bathrooms. Counties should be able to fine property owners who fail to create defensible space or clear dry fuels. Well-funded local and volunteer fire departments could conduct prescribed fires and burn road ditches to create buffers where contract fire specialists don’t exist. But even government can’t always protect you from your own stupidity.

  2. LCJ 2023-06-08 07:45

    Poor forestry management.
    Not climate change,

  3. larry kurtz 2023-06-08 08:11

    As many readers are aware the first US Forest Service timber sale took place near Nemo but only after nearly all the old growth of every native tree species had already been cleared for mine timbers, railroad ties and construction. So, Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is correct when she said the Black Hills National Forest has been poorly managed. I maintain that has been happening since 1899 and Forest Service Case Number One.

    After a century of fire suppression, a decades-long moratorium on prescribed burns, a lack of environmental litigators and GOP retrenchment the Black Hills National Forest has been broken for decades.

    Wasicu have stolen the ground, plundered the resources, encouraged ponderosa pine to infest lands once dominated by aspen and sage, polluted waterways and depleted watersheds. Nine tribes have sued to force the courts to act on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management mismanagement where worker morale struggles to rebound from the terrors of the Trump term.

    Slow-walking prescribed burns and the persistence of cheatgrass on federal and state ground are just more examples of the intense lobbying efforts of Neiman Enterprises and from welfare ranchers addicted to cheap grazing fees. Instead of allowing native aspen to be restored, stands of doghair ponderosa pine (ladder fuels that feed wildfires) cover much of the BHNF.

    Add the very high number of private inholdings that make the wildland urban interface (WUI) very large to one of the highest road densities in the entire national forest system and Region 2 to lots of logging, hardrock mining and pesticides that comtribute to bat mortalities then understand why over a hundred species in South Dakota alone and millions worldwide are at risk to the Earth hating Republican Party.

    Craig Bobzien lasted as supervisor for eleven years but retired in 2016 when the volume of sh!t hitting the fan just became too overwhelming.

  4. larry kurtz 2023-06-08 08:13

    For the last four thousand years as the Anthropocene intensified in the Rocky Mountain region limber pine (Pinus flexilis) receded north and left a few isolated pockets high in the Black Hills, the easternmost population of the five needle white pine species. The oldest known specimen in the US is two thousand years.

    Cronartium ribicola or white pine blister rust is native to China but was accidentally introduced to North America around 1900 and can be deadly for limber pine.

  5. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-06-08 08:36

    I, for one, am guilty of not raking the Black Hills National Forest floor, and can only fervently pray this neglect gives tRump six kinds of fits, aneurysms, piles, tertiary syphilis, imprisonment, and shingles.

    I am acutely aware of the danger of forest fires, having lived next to two of them in the last eighteen years. The kind you put sprinklers on your roof and hope the power does not go out.

    No climate change to see here, folks; move along.

  6. sx123 2023-06-08 09:19

    All I know is that it’s too f’n hot already for June. Way above historic average highs..

  7. Loren 2023-06-08 10:13

    Yes, by all means, come to SD where homes are more affordable, insurable, and each comes with a FREE SNOW SHOVEL! ;-)

  8. John 2023-06-08 10:59

    Larry is spot on, again.
    Climate change is a systemic, long term problem.
    But the near term rolling catastrophe is the bad management of the Black Hills forest region since “the days of ’76”. US Geological Survey maps show the rough northern quarter of the Black Hills was clearcut. No mature trees. That is why the over-celebrated Case One for the nation’s first planned national forest tree harvest occurred in far away from the Lead/Deadwood gold mines south of Nemo – it was the nearest place with standing timber.
    The nation’s best managed public forests are tribal forests; followed by state, then federal.
    The BHNF never got close to meeting its annual thinning goals. Cruise through the poorly named state park and the BHNF seeing the stark management differences. The Forest Service overlapped a century a fire suppression with a century of under-thinning and minimal prescribed burning. The best management step the Forest Service could take is killing “Smokey Bear” and the nursery story – ushering in a mature, scientific-based fire management

    We ought to thank and congratulate the insurance companies for doing the hard work of social responsibility. Next, it’s time for the federal government to stop reinforcing failure — failure in urban and residential developments – in floodplains, along seashores, and in forests. Make those folks self-insure. Stop recusing stupid. Local county commissions and (non)planning commissions approve WUI (wildland urban interface) (and floodplain) developments as fast as they show up. Then those same folks pretend they have no responsibility for access roads and the servicing of those roads in publicly (poorly)planned developments. When predictable disaster strikes, those same commissioners put on a dying cockroach act in front of the federal government seeking a bail out reward for their stupidity. We must do better.

  9. P. Aitch 2023-06-08 11:38

    It’s uncertain where USA will end up but it’s fully certain California will get there first.

    i.e. The insurance companies listed are only refusing to insure California homes the way they’re built currently. A new home design resistant to the climate and affordable is coming.
    Bet on Cali not on Noem’s SD.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2023-06-08 17:34

    Mr. Aitch is correct. California is where good ideas are born.

  11. leslie 2023-06-12 11:06

    The Northern Atlantic Ocean is heating up so rapidly that it is literally, nearly off the charts. Pay heed. This is well beyond record-breaking. (chart) twitter yesterday

    Yikes! From Cuba to Senagal, from Nova Scotia to Spain, and from Greenland to Great Britain.

    Eliot Jacobsen

    It is my opinion that the combination of years of ocean heating generated by the EEI, heating in Antarctica due to open ocean, shifts in winds and surface heating due to El Nino, and IMO 2020 have together triggered unprecedented ocean surface warming.

    The consequences are clear. As we enter Northern hemisphere summer, large regions of the planet will experience record heatwaves, fires, storms and flooding. These events will set records in intensity, duration and frequency. The planet’s overall temperature will spike to new highs for the modern era, with 1.5°C in sight for 2024. Antarctic polar sea-ice will continue its retreat from “normal”, exposing more open ocean to incoming solar radiation and heating. Crops will fail. Infrastructure will break beyond repair. Climate migration will spike. And all of this is already happening. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide from anthropogenic sources continues to spew at a near-record rate, while the Paris limit of 1.5°C requires these emissions be reduced about 7% per year for the next decade.

    And this is all happening in the midst of the current political and social chaos, while the world attempts to recover from a pandemic that is still ongoing but ignored by global media.

    These next two years are a pre-amble to what it will mean for the world to pass the Paris 1.5°C barrier. The end of global industrial civilization is where we are headed right now, not at some future dystopian moment.

  12. leslie 2023-06-12 11:11

    @ EliotJacobson (twitter today)

    So keep it up Republicans. Cling to power for power itself, certainly not leadership!

  13. leslie 2023-06-12 11:24

    “The “Earth Energy Imbalance” (EEI) measures the difference between incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation. The EEI 36-month running average is equivalent to about 10 Hiroshima bombs per second.

    John Thune dithers:

    May 11 tweet—“ @SenJohnThune

    Forcing power plants to close or adopt costly modifications will further harm electricity reliability and raise energy bills for Americans”

    June 8 tweet—“After two and a half years of *hostility toward conventional energy* I urge President Biden to take a more realistic approach and work toward strengthening U.S. energy production.”

    my emphasis added. Hostility is what you, John, chose to characterize Democratic global warming action????

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