Weather trend sparks worrying disease and insect warning for millions of Australians

A new report by the Actuaries Institute warns elevated temperatures will create new risks for Australians.

Women lying on the beach. (inset) a virus under a microscope.
Hotter weather in Australia has sparked a disease and insect warning. Source: Getty (File)

Hot weather is persisting longer which is great if you like eating outdoors, exercising outside, or going to the beach. But there’s a troubling downside to this climactic change that’s likely to make life a little more unpleasant — the increased risk of pests and diseases.

But it’s not just humans who are at greater risk of illness. These changes are likely to harm crops growing on Australia’s farms and drive up food prices even further, and are in line with warnings from a mosquito expert and fungus scientists who Yahoo News spoke with earlier this year. Forests may also come under growing pressure from swarms of beetles that attack the trunks of trees.

The warning has come from an industry professionals who are increasingly concerned with climate change. They belong to the Actuaries Institute, an advisory body that advises the multi-billion dollar insurance and banking sectors about risk.

The new Australian Actuaries Climate Index (AACI) was published this week. It is the culmination of research into the impact of climate change right now and analysis of how societies are working to decarbonise and mitigate the problem.

AACI lead author Rade Musulin told Yahoo News the insurance and banking sectors are “very concerned” about the threat of climate change. His report assessed the frequency of extreme weather conditions and their variation over time and detected higher temperatures in the northeast between December 2023 and February 2024.

“We're undergoing a change right now that's on the scale of the Industrial Revolution, electrification, the internet, and even the printing press. And this change is going to affect every part of our economy, society, where we live, the way we live, how we build houses, how we get around,” he said of the climate crisis in general.

“It is really important to our profession that we serve the public, the policy makers in Canberra, the insurance industry, the banks and various other people. They’re all going to be affected by this regardless of what their political position is.”

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Parked cars inundated with brown water in Canberra.
Extreme weather events can cost the insurance industry billions. Source: AAP

The role of the Institute has traditionally been to help insurers set prices for everything from bushfire protection, to electric vehicle comprehensive policies and health insurance. But with the climate crisis worsening, its members are being called upon to help assess the risk of major extreme weather events.

“I personally do a lot of work in international risk transfer of big disasters,” Musulin said. “So when a big disaster like a hurricane in Florida, or a typhoon in Japan, or a flood in Australia, becomes a $10 or $20 billion problem, then that goes into the global financial system, and actuaries price that risk and help balance the books on how much all that stuff costs across the world.”

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His report also examined an aspect of climate change that doesn’t get as much attention as extreme heat waves — the impact of elevated minimum low temperatures.

“There are several consequences and they include problems in agricultural production, to people not sleeping well at night if they don’t have an air conditioner — and that has health and wellness implications — to proliferation of beetles, and more moisture in the atmosphere helping seed rainfall,” Musulin said.

The news isn’t all “doom and gloom”. Musulin hopes readers of his report will see there is a lot of opportunity for Australia to become a sustainability superpower.

“We've got minerals that are needed for electrification, we’ve got massive potential for renewable energy here, we've got a really skilled workforce that can build the electric grids,” he said.

“You never want to say climate change is good — that’s not the message. But there is a lot of opportunity here that goes along with the risk.”

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