Insurers see greater risk of hurricanes

Scientists disagree about whether global warming is promoting more hurricanes -- but here's an inconvenient truth:

As the 2008 storm season begins, the insurance industry isn't waiting for consensus. It's betting on more hurricanes and cutting back coverage and hiking premiums in Florida, where home insurance rates have jumped at least 100 percent -- as much as 300 percent in some cases -- over the past four years.

Spurred by a pronounced jump in the number of powerful storms in recent years, including the very active seasons of 2004 and 2005, insurers have changed the ''risk models'' they use, and the new versions expect more hurricanes.

''We can't wait. We just know it's going to be bad, and we price off that view,'' said Steve E. Smith, president of property solutions for ReAdvisory/Carvill America, a Chicago-based reinsurance broker that works with insurance companies.

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