The risks are still significantly underestimated, according to Christian Eltner, Secretary General of the Austrian Insurance Association VVO, even though the fact that there is a clear rise in natural disasters and extreme weather events.
At a joint news conference, experts from the insurance sector, climate and preventative research, and other fields cautioned that time is of the importance and risk reduction is a key concern. However, although the fact that they must be implemented promptly, lawmakers have not yet backed the insurance industry’s requests for national responses to natural disasters.
The perception of the risk of natural disasters and awareness of the dangers in Austria vary widely by location and are generally very low, despite the fact that damages of an average of 1 billion euros are reported there each year. Surprisingly, 62% of Austrians think that the government is the only entity that can protect them from natural disasters. Everyone surveyed agrees that there is no information available on how one can personally protect oneself from natural disasters. Only 50% of those polled understood what civil protection alarms are or what to do in the event of one. Damage to open spaces (44%) and direct damage to the house or apartment (39%), respectively, are the two types of damage highlighted in the poll.
Man-made climate change is causing changes in extreme weather events in Austria. Over the last few decades, there has been a 30% increase in the number of days with heavy rainfall in the summer, while days with little rain have become less common. Climate researcher Dr. Marc Olefs explains that this is directly linked to global warming, as the atmosphere can hold more water vapor with higher temperatures. As a result, thunderstorms are becoming more intense and can lead to more severe storms with heavy rain, hail, and strong winds. If the Paris climate goals are achieved, these changes may stabilize, but if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, more significant changes in extreme weather events are expected.
In terms of preventing natural disasters, a recent KFV study reveals that “there is still a clear need to reach a certain level when it comes to preventing natural hazards. The population’s need for information and education is also very high.”