British public unprepared for extreme weather scenarios and don’t plan to pay

Published at 08:50 AM on 31 March 2014

00.01 Monday 31st MARCH 2014

  • More than a quarter of British adults (27%) are unsure whether or not they have any insurance that protects/ covers their home if it were to flood
  • 37% would not be willing to spend anything on protecting their home from potential flood damage at any point in the future
  • Only 11% believe climate change is not happening

64% of Great Britons don’t have, or don’t know if they have insurance that covers their home if it were to flood, despite the fact that nearly three quarters (72%) say protecting their home, or having adequate insurance, is a top priority for them in dealing with extreme weather events.

The results are from a survey commissioned by PwC, conducted by YouGov, into the public’s attitudes to climate change and Britain’s ability to cope with extreme weather, using the recent floods as an example.

With the formal release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on the impacts and vulnerability of the world to climate change expected on Monday 31st March, the results suggest many Britons have some way to go to understand how to protect themselves from extreme weather events.

  • Of those who said they were affected in some way by recent weather events, 34% don’t have insurance that protects / covers their home for flooding
  • 37% say they wouldn’t be willing to spend anything personally on protecting their home from potential flood damage at any point in the future. More than three quarters of that group (78%) think they are not at risk of flooding
  • Only 13% would be willing to pay up to £250 to install extreme weather defences; a further 8% would pay between £250 - £500; only 5% would pay more than £1000.
  • 21% believe it’s the government’s responsibility to install weather defences in areas that are at risk of being affected.

Responses to the survey indicate that experiences in the US, and Australia of incentivising the public to adapt their homes could play a part. Nearly one in 10 (9%)  say they would take action and install extreme weather defences if they got tax back or tax credits were available. 15% would get them installed if local government support was available, and 12% would install weather defences if their insurance company subsidised it, or 15% if it reduced their insurance. Currently, 1% reported already having installed extreme weather defences  in their homes

Jon Williams, partner, sustainability and climate change, PwC said:

“Whether it’s flooding, drought, coastal erosion, or wind storms, the question is not whether climate change is happening but do we understand the nature of the risk and how we can all prepare for it. Not everyone will be affected by flooding, so it’s no surprise that some people don’t have cover for it. But with approximately half of the 2007 flooding off flood plains, the 'it won't happen to me' approach could prove expensive.

“People are understandably assuming that the risks associated with flooding or extreme weather will be similar to recent experiences with the weather, rather than what science is telling us about our changing climate. That’s a dangerous mind-set given the implications of extreme weather for UK infrastructure, insurance, and housing.

“The Government and insurance companies can play an important role in raising awareness of the future risks of flooding, and advising households how they can protect themselves. Flood Re is one example of how insurers and the public sector can work together to find affordable and practical solutions to managing flood risk, but more needs to be done to plug the £500m funding gap to protect Britons from flooding.”

The recent extreme weather ignited several debates about the role of climate change, but 38% say they don’t care if climate change is causing extreme weather or not, so long as the UK is able to cope with it effectively, pointing to wider implications for the resilience of the UK’s transport and energy infrastructure.

Over a third of people (34%) responding to the survey say that recent extreme weather events reinforced their view that climate change is happening; with 17% saying recent media reports and discussions have  raised their awareness of the possible link between the issues of extreme weather and climate change. Only 11% believe climate change isn’t happening.

Regions most affected by the recent extreme weather, such as the South West, Wales, and South East, feel stronger still, with 45% and 43%  respectively saying they don’t care if climate change is causing extreme weather or not, so long as the UK copes effectively with the issues. Other than protecting themselves and their families, keeping homes protected (46%) and having adequate insurance cover for potential losses (26%) are the top priorities identified.

For further information or interview with specialists from PwC on the implications of climate change for the UK, business and insurance, contact Rowena Mearley (07841 563 180) or Miranda Ward (07803 455 991).

1.    All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2240 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 07th - 10th March 2014.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
2.    Environment Agency definition of flooding risks: Surface water flooding happens when rainwater does not drain away through the normal drainage systems or soak into the ground, but lies on or flows over the ground instead. River flooding happens when a river cannot cope with the amount of water draining into it from the surrounding land. Sea flooding happens when there are high tides and stormy conditions.
3.    The Environment Agency findings were that in in London alone approximately 15% of all properties are in the floodplain – which is around half a million properties potentially affecting one million people. Of these, 70% are at risk from tidal flooding, 29% are at risk of fluvial flooding and 1% are at risk from both.
4.    PwC’s sustainability and climate change advisory team combines 700 experts globally, with over 100 in the UK. Specialists work with public and private sector clients on emerging issues of climate change science, policy, economics and development, sustainability/CSR strategy, supply chain, responsible investment, measurement, reporting and assurance. For more information see


Rowena Mearley
PwC | Senior Manager - Media Relations
Office: +44 207 213 47 27 | Mobile: + 44 7841 563 180 |
Email: [email protected]
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